RETAILERS STRUGGLE WITH HIGH RENT
FRUSTRATED independent Subiaco business owners say they are struggling to keep their heads above water in a “perfect storm” of unreasonably high rents and record low trade.
On January 2, Bistro des Artistes restaurateur Alain Fabregues wrote ‘Subiaco is not Paris or London – $1000 per square meter is unacceptable’ on his Hay Street restaurant’s window in a protest against his landlord Barrie Lepley increasing the rent by 66 per cent.
Across the road at Fly Home homewares and cafe, owner Tess Lyon said she already paid $1072 per square metre.
“Right now I am barely keeping my head above water,” Ms Lyon said.
“I have been appealing to my landlord for six months and there is absolutely zero negotiation; either you pay up or pay to get out of your lease.
“It would cost me about $50,000 to leave, so obviously I cannot afford to do either.”
Ms Lyon said she signed her lease “in good faith” about two years ago thinking she could make it work.
“My wonderful regular customers are keeping us alive, but if you look on to the street, there is just nobody here,” she said.
“If you invest in commercial property, surely it would make sense that you should care about the business community you have bought into.”
CARE Realty director Tony Gates, who manages and leases commercial properties on Rokeby Road, said the average rate for a standard-sized retail premises in Subiaco was $600 to $700 per square metre.
“Going back before the global financial crisis, the rents went up to about $1100 per square metre, but since then they have been dropping back down,” Mr Gates said.
“Tenants may have signed leases four or five years ago when prices were at their peak.”
Hay Street boutique Emporia owner Toni Manolas said rent increases were never a welcome thing, but in a downturn market, it only made the situation in Subiaco that much worse.
“It would be great if landlords could calibrate their ideas to match their markets,” Ms Manolas said.
“It’s a shame that humanity is often lost when dealing with commerce and the economy.”
Western Suburbs Business Association President Geoff Parnell said it was “highly unusual” for rent to increase in the current market.