CBD CONCERN: Tess Berghofer, Sue Hargreaves and Carole Cronin say the future of shopping in Bundaberg is
CBD CONCERN: Tess Berghofer, Sue Hargreaves and Carole Cronin say the future of shopping in Bundaberg is "custom made". Katie Hall

Business owner calls for action on Bundy's dwindling CBD

WITH empty shops dotting Bundaberg's CBD streets, one long-time business owner said she has had enough.

In the early hours of Saturday morning, Nathans Boutique owner Sue Hargreaves woke up worrying about the way business in Bundy was heading.

That was when she decided to take to Facebook, writing a post highlighting the seriousness of the issue in a humorous light, hoping to get her point across.

She recounted a positive customer experience with some out-of-towners who couldn't "believe" the amount of empty shops in the CBD.

"The sentiment of all Bundaberg residents, I told them," Ms Hargreaves's post read.

Ms Hargreaves's post has since reached almost 200 likes and gained attention from social media users from as far away as Perth, sharing her opinion.

It even caught the eye of Bundaberg Regional Councillor Helen Blackburn, who vowed to take the issue to council.

Ms Hargreaves said in her more than 30 years in the business, she'd never seen the state of the CBD so bad.

But she said being negative wouldn't do anything to improve the situation.

"It's the worst it's ever been, but there has to be a solution ... we can't be negative about it all the time," Ms Hargreaves said.

"We have to find good, interesting people (store owners) and we have to have the landlords reduce rents - and keep shops clean and tidy so people will want to come and rent it."

She said people would vote with their feet, but they weren't coming into the shops in the same way they used to.

"It will only work if we work together as a community, otherwise we'll go," she said.

"That's the bottom line, we can't trade on fresh air.

"I've been here 30 odd years and for some reason they've disappeared. They're not coming to the door."

Late last year council's economic development executive director Ben Artup revealed an ambitious vision to revitalise the CBD. The plan, revealed at a Urban Development Institute of Australia meeting included a level 5 hospital, riverside parklands, a cultural art gallery, university campus and main street upgrades.

The NewsMail yesterday contacted council for comment on whether progress or discussions had been made on the revitalisation plan, but they declined to comment.

Ms Hargreaves said despite an apparent stagnation of the CBD, being negative would only turn people away.

"I don't know what it is, I can only put it down to the low socio-economic situation in Bundaberg, and it's getting worse," she said.

"It's very frustrating but somehow you have to keep an upbeat feel for it, people don't want to hear misery all the time which is why I made the post light-hearted.

"It's a great CBD, I just walked around it before and I said we have beautiful little shops here, boutique shops ... and when we have tourists they say we have fabulous shops. But not people in Bundaberg."

Ms Hargreaves said the service a small, locally owned business offered customers was worth its weight in gold.

"I do a personalised service ... almost a friendship ... you don't get that in a chain shop."

Commenter's thoughts: Bring action to CBD

Kerrie Sampson:

"Part of the reason the shops are empty is the ridiculous leasing costs on them. They are trying to rent them at Brisbane prices, yet we are Bundaberg."

Suzanne Hernan:

"... I was amazed at not only the amount of empty shops in the CBD but the state they were left in when the tenant moved out ..."

"In Donnybrook our council came up with a great idea. All our vacant shops were cleaned up, old signs taken down, windows cleaned and maybe a lick of paint. They then ran a photo competition and the winning photos were transposed on to large canvases and then hung up inside the shop windows."

Sandy Johnson:

"Council needs to find a solution to the problems that are pushing businesses out, whether it be high rent, lack of parking, etc."

"I think it's sad that some banks and larger stores have moved to shopping centres ... I'd love to see the CBD full of thriving businesses again."

Jenny Van Nunspeet:

"I love the local shops and CBD. You always get better service and keep the $$$ in local economy. The CBD can get busy and council do need to look at alternative parking options and attractions in CBD to keep it buzzing."

Jenny Lunney:

"The empty shops in the CBD are so unattractive. I often wonder if it is high rent, difficulty for customers to get a park or just that Bundy doesn't support the small locals as well as we could. There are definitely some gaps in product offering too."

Nanette Kingston:

"There is a terrific commitment and passion to produce and promote local product and outlets by passionate local businesses. Bravo!

"Then there are the demographic, social and economic overlays which challenge their viability in this community.

"Also, if there is insufficient convenient parking in the CBD there will be a drift to the malls."

Heather Stevens:

"The CBD needs an upgrade, to entice shoppers back into the city. The other thing is people have become very lazy, if they can't park outside the shop they don't like to walk."

What do you think needs to be done to the CBD to boost business? Send us your thoughts at editorial@news-mail.com.au or on Facebook at facebook.com/BundabergNewsMail.



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