Retail crisis comes to Bondi: Max’s Shoes set to close
Story: Wentworth Courier. By: Shae McDonald. Pic: Danny Aarons, 18 April 2012
Five shops are empty on the once-thriving Bondi Beach esplanade. Another two are closing, while five more on Hall St have already closed.
Now, after 38 years, Max’s Shoes will close on April 30.
The Campbell Parade store is the latest retailer to fall victim to what owner Max Siano describes as the demise of Bondi.
He cited the removal of parking spaces, competition from Westfield Bondi Junction and high rents for the 40 per cent drop in revenue that has ultimately forced him to shut up shop.
“The rent is much too high, it’s unsustainable and time to vacate,” Mr Siano said. He said retailers needed a 25 per cent drop in rent and tenancy agreements, which were seasonally adjusted.
“Rent is high, but it’s only high because nobody’s here. In decades gone by, we were packed,” he said.
Over the past 15 years, more than 130 car spaces have been removed and those that remain are strictly metered, he said.
“If people have places to park they will shop,” Mr Siano said.
“At the moment there is no way a family of four is going to come down on a bus with all their stuff, go shopping and then take all their extra bags with them back on a bus. It’s just not viable, they’re going to go to Bondi Junction. If there’s no cars, there’s no shops. It’s that simple.”
Bondi Surf Seafoods owner George Dimitrios said landlords should not be able to charge such high rents when the trading wasn’t there to support it.
“What’s killing Bondi is unrealistic landlords who don’t have a grip on what it takes to run a business,” Mr Dimitrios said.
“Drop my rent in half and I’m flourishing, parking meters or no meters.”
After “numerous discussions and pleading” the fish shop owner managed to negotiate a reduction in rent for this winter.
New breed brings life back to shops
Not everyone agrees Bondi Beach is struggling.
A local businesswoman said the arrival of a new breed of entrepreneurs and shop owners was rejuvenating Bondi’s retail sector.
Raine and Horne Bondi Beach’s Mary Anne Cronin said young fashion designers were helping to breathe new life into the area.
“We’ve got really new, young designers coming in, shaking and moving things a bit,” she said. “They’re bringing a new approach.”
She said new developments on Hall St and at the Swiss Grand would only enhance retail opportunities for businesses and customers.
“There’s going to be a very interesting boutique class of shops established there,” she said.
Ms Cronin is on the committee for Bondi Winter Magic, which will run again this year, and said Waverley Council and the Chamber of Commerce had done a lot to encourage people to visit the area.
What do you think? Is it all doom and gloom or is there new blood breathing life into Bondi…