We’ll become a ghost town

Business owners fear for the worst

An Auburn Street businesswoman says the CBD is destined to become a ghost town.

Tatiana Alexeeff blames the economic downturn and a widespread failure to support local business for the downfall of her shop, Tatiana.

The Auburn Street clothing store has been a fixture for more than 40 years. It’s now set to close its doors.

Her soon-to-be empty shopfront joins a score of others abandoned on the main drag and a growing number of vacant buildings on the Clifford-Goldsmith Street block alone.

It’s a sight people should become used to, she says.

“Shoppers don’t feel any confidence… Sadly, we as independents aren’t bottomless pits of money,” Ms Alexeeff said.

“We survived the drought but we cannot survive the economic downturn.”

The commerce sector will continue to dwindle unless shoppers change their attitude, she continued. And a lack of main street business is bad news for the local economy.

“I’d say this will be a ghost town (in 10 years),” she said.

“Unless the people of Goulburn wake up to this, stores will continue to close.” Ms Alexeeff isn’t the lone CBD businessperson with fears for Auburn Street’s future.

Real estate agent Peter Mylonas believes the rent levelled at shop owners is forcing businesses out of the market.

“We are part of a bigger picture,” he said. “Shops are closing everywhere, not just Goulburn... If these businesses close down, it affects the coffee shops, the advertising sector, it hits the whole economy.” The solution: more affordable rent. Mr Mylonas says council needs to introduce an incentive-based approach on the properties it leases.

“Rents are going to have to come down,” he said.

“We’ve got to drop rates and give some incentives... You might have to give someone three or four months rent-free.”

A failure to keep business ticking over on Auburn Street contradicts the promotion of the city, he says.

“It’s good you’ve got council promoting Goulburn,” Mr Mylonas continued.

“But when these people come to Goulburn and see the empty shops it will send mixed messages.”

The downfall of Tatiana, however, isn’t rent. Nor is it an unreasonable landlord. The state of Auburn Street rests on shoppers’ wallets.

“I’ve had an extremely good landlord, though I know of others not so fortunate,” Ms Alexeeff said.

“Unless there are stores, there will be no jobs for university students, school students, seniors.”

Unfortunately the state of affairs isn’t immune to Goulburn, Ms Alexeeff says.

“What people fail to understand is the same thing’s happening in the UK... This business has been going for over 40 years. It breaks my heart to close it.”

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