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Vacancies abound as retailers desert Oxford Street
Nearly one in five storefronts are vacant on one of Sydney’s most famous shopping strips due to a lack of confidence within the retail sector.
A Property Observer survey found 35 out of 198 storefronts on the north side of Paddington’s Oxford Street shopping strip – between Barcom Street and Jersey Road – are empty. Some have been unoccupied for more than six months.
William Street to Elizabeth had the most “for lease” signs, with 11 stores empty on this block alone.
Many of the recent departees are fashion stores, including Jigsaw, Chic Collection, Oat and Pink Zebra.
Renowned British-born designer Wayne Cooper will also be shutting his Oxford Street store in two weeks.Fashion retailer May Day Market has recently packed up shop on the strip to open a store in Westfield Pitt Street.
Richard & Wrench real estate agent Maurice Ulloa-Romero said the prolonged vacancies for landlords came about because small and median business people aren’t willing to start up new outlets.
"Paddington has been a bit of a ghost town in which no-one wants to take a risk opening a shop," he said.
"We get enquiries but no-one is committing to long-term leases, only short-term leases."
Mr Ulloa-Romero says he believes large, established brands are doing well in the area but smaller boutiques are having trouble.
The shopping strip boasts big Australian fashion names, including Kirrily Johnson’s flagship Sydney store, Melbourne label Camilla and Marc, and women’s clothing brand Shakuhachi.
Laing & Simmons real estate agent Jeffrey Onishi says new retailers would have to set themselves apart from the existing boutiques and cafes to succeed.
"It’s got to be someone doing something different," he said.
"You can throw a tennis ball and on each side and there’s a coffee shop."
Mr Onishi said finding retail tenants was easy before the GFC but the large number of empty storefronts will probably continue for some time.
“I think it won’t change… it’s really where we are now.”
But Metro Commercial agent Allan Levy says the shopping strip's woes have meant rents are becoming more affordable.
Property Observer spotted a 45-square-metre storefront at 80 Oxford Street, Paddington, recently up for lease for $90,000 annually.
The storefront in the heart of the strip was previously listed for lease at $95,000 last August to September.
Mr Levy says the vibe on Paddington’s Oxford strip was different to that of mega malls Bondi Westfield and Pitt Street.
"It’s a different offering and element," he said.
"It's completely social.
"People are more willing to come back in to Oxford Street… the sentiment is a lot more positive."
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The current policy solves a short-term problem by creating jobs in the building sector, but in the long run it is likely to place young first home buyers under financial pressure.