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You can smell retail death

former dick smith storeYears ago while visiting a store in Singapore with Emil Senn, the then head of IGDS, he whispered to me “I smell death” and within a year that store had closed. He could see it coming from a mile away. More recently Steve Kulmar of Retail Oasis said to me that Dick Smith retail was a lost cause. Within a year or two it had closed.

When you next walk into a store, have a smell. See whether you can spot the stores that will be closing before not too long.

Unfortunately this doesn’t only apply to stores but to shopping centres too. Visit just about any shopping centre and you will find stores that are closed. Depending on the number will determine the smell.

This no more prevalent than in Gosford on the Central Coast one hour north of Sydney. In fact the number of shopping centres there that are stone dead is disturbing, which means that Gosford City too is almost dead. And as the tumbleweeds blow down Mann Street, the politicians sip on their cocktails.

The unemployment is notoriously high and has been for years especially among the youth. The M1 to Sydney is a race track at peak hour as desperate Central Coast folk commute in order to earn a crust. Alongside several roads in Somersby and Kariong, you will find cars parked as people car pool to reach the big city.

How on earth can a town the size of Gosford be allowed to die?

There is some hope. John Singleton and one or two others are doing their best to stir things up a bit but it needs more than that. Even with Singo’s deep pockets, he cannot do it alone.

The last few Premiers have done nothing to stop the rot. Maybe Gladys Berejiklian, the new Premier, will get something started.

For retail to survive, you need people. Which means you need jobs. And then you need a whole lot of other things under the heading of infrastructure.

When I ask locals why the town has died, one reason put forward is that a shopping centre opened in a nearby suburb, Erina. I am sure that the opening of Erina Fair didn’t help but visit the shopping centre there and you will find that they too are suffering, while death is not yet imminent. If you want a really good deal on rent, Erina is where you should find it.

One can’t help feeling that people of Gosford and the retailers in particular have been horribly let down for years.

Stuart Bennie is a retail consultant at Impact Retailing www.impactretailing.com.au and can be contacted at stuart@impactretailing.com.au or 0414 631 702

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