Closures blamed on lack of shoppers
By MEL MARTIN
IT took only four months for Kerry Millsom's dream to turn into her worst nightmare.
Just before Christmas last year, Miss Millsom opened a small cafe called A Little Pekkish at the new Moonee Beach Shopping Centre.
By the end of April, she was saying goodbye to her staff, closing the doors, and walking away, having lost everything.
"The shop started losing money from day one," she said.
"Yes, there was a bit of mismanagement on my part because I had too many staff, but we never even covered costs."
In fact, one day she took in a total of just $32.
For Mick Bonny, who owned The Phone Hut at the centre, the worst days were those when he took in not a single dollar, especially in wet weather. Because the centre's roof ? which he says was meant to overlap with his shop's roof to protect him against the weather ? didn't go far enough, so on rainy days, he got wet.
On Saturday, Mr Bonny ripped up his shop fitout and walked away.
Miss Millsom and Mr Bonny say there is a simple explanation for the lack of business ? there is nothing to attract shoppers to the centre, except to buy their groceries.
"No one expects to make millions in the first year, but there is a difference between struggling and making a loss," Miss Millsom said.
"The shopowners are not happy. There is just no traffic coming through."
Moonee Beach Shopping Centre manager Debbie Grimley said grocery shoppers were exactly the type of people the centre was aimed at.
"It's a food-based shopping centre, that's our target market," she said.
But for Miss Millsom and Mr Bonny, there was simply not enough grocery shoppers to keep their businesses going.
Miss Millsom is now in the process of filing for bankruptcy, which she says should have been unnecessary.
"When we were signed up, we were given the impression 60 to 80 per cent of the shops at the centre would be filled. Obviously, if I'd known there were going to be so few shops, I wouldn't have started this business," she said.
Last October, retail architect Brian Jende told The Coffs Coast Advocate 'there has been good interest from retailers, with tenants commited for over half the shops and negotiations in progress for all the others'.
The Retail Tenancy Briefing Manual, which new tenants were handed, lists shops for most of the floor space, including a bottle shop, a gym, a hardware shop, fashion shops, a variety shop, a garden shop, a telco, a butcher, a video shop, a surf shop, a florist, homewares, and even Gloria Jeans.
Developer Ross Warburton, who has now put the centre up for sale, says the list was the tenancy mix which the leasing agent was hoping to get, not a guarantee of what shops were going in, and that two new tenants are in negotiations to move in by September 1.
In the seven months since trading started, two shops have shut and no new shop has opened, leaving a total of 10 shops operating in the centre.
Twenty specialty retail and nine bulky goods retail spaces remain vacant.
Mr Bonny says not enough marketing was done and that it's a classic case of Catch-22.
"Because there are so few shops, there is no foot traffic going to the shops, and because there is no traffic, there are no new shops going in," Mr Bonny said.
"We kept saying the owners should give everyone free rent as an incentive, just to get the shops in, which would attract more shoppers."