August 9, 2013

Cafes and restaurants take over traditional retail outlets as industry continues to soften

HIGH Street is turning into “Eat Street”, as the decline in bricks-and-mortar retailers leads to foodies replacing fashionistas at strips around Brisbane.

A report by commercial property group Jones Lang LaSalle has found Brisbane is in for a gourmet makeover, with the tough business environment seeing eateries taking over from traditional retailers.

Jones Lang LaSalle research director Leigh Warner, who spearheaded the report, said a decline in retail strips would see Brisbane’s food scene flourish, with restaurants, cafes and bars replacing shopping precincts.

“It’s a bit of a change in the mindset. Many retail owners have seen the restaurants and cafes as more complementary and the retailers as the anchors, but that is going to change,” he said.

He said places such as Bulimba’s Oxford St and Wilston Village were already undergoing transformations into vibrant food districts, while change at Logan Rd, Woolloongabba, was driven by gourmets, rather than traditional shoppers.

“It’s really taken over through there and the restaurants are creating the identity now and dragging the tenants along,” he said.

Further out from the city, Mr Warner said Stones Corner faced growing pains as it evolved from an outlet-based district towards a more upmarket, food-oriented street. In the future, outer-suburb areas, such as Blackwood St, Mitchelton, would make the same transition as incomes in the area rose.

Restaurant and Catering Australia CEO John Hart said the change to eat streets was occurring across the city, with closing retailers leaving restaurants as precinct anchors.

“I don’t know that there’s actually a strip where it’s not happening, to be frank,” he said.

But he said the transition would be a “slow burn”, with the tenancy mix changing gradually as leases came up for renewal.

Mr Hart said the Gold and Sunshine coasts were not experiencing the same phenomena, as flagging domestic tourism led to a weakening of the restaurant industry in those regional centres, although that might change with the falling Australian dollar.

Joc Ridgway, owner of fashion and homewares boutique Green Grass, said she opened an espresso bar on her property to make better use of her space and help shore up sales in the struggling retail environment.

“It cross-pollinates and I’ve just found, even though the retail side of the shop has dipped in 2012 for the first time, it was the cafe that kept me at the same level,” she said.

Ms Ridgway said since opening her shop in 2002 the area had changed from being a shopping and grocery precinct to being more foodie-focused. In the past two years there had been an “explosion” in coffee shops.

“We used to have all sorts of things but they’re all slowly moving out (and) if I ever get to the point where I sell, I reckon someone will buy it and turn it into a cafe,” she said.

But she said it was important to keep both elements for the strip to remain self-sustaining.

“When the girls come out on a Saturday they want to eat lunch and then they want to shop with their girlfriends,” she said.

“If there’s no retail left they’re eating and going home, so you absolutely have to have a mixture of both.”

August 3, 2013
Joc Ridgway added a cafe to her boutique to help battle the softening retail market. Picture: Mark Cranitch.

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