Australian Newsagency Blog

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Why worry that CBDs are dead and may never fully return is misplaced

Mark Fletcher
February 14th, 2021 · 7 Comments

On Insiders this morning on ABC TV, James Campbell from the Herald Sun worried with all his might that the Melbourne CBD may not come back. he went on to say the the CBD was the “engine room” of the Victorian economy.

The melodrama was laughable.

CBDs have been fading in relevance for years, before Covid. The shop local movement has had an impact. Federal and state government region al policies have had an impact.

Campbell’s comments re the CBD were ignorant, but on point for what we see from the Murdoch press.

The thing is, regional, rural and suburban high street shopping is better in Australia now than for decades. Shoppers are spoilt for local choice.

Shopping is easy and safe, too.

People like this. Local shoppers like it. Local shopkeepers like it. Local makers like it.

Local shopping is the engine room of retail in not only Victoria, but Australia.

But, if we are to believe Campbell, a strong Melbourne CBD is critical to economic success in Victoria. He needs to read more, and get out more. Melbourne CBD office workers who have been working from home and who have a choice to continue to work from home are more likely to choose to work from home … thereby transitioning Melbourne CBD shopping to local shopping.

I say this based on reporting recently on this very topic.

Most newsagents are in regional, rural and suburban high street situations. They are benefiting from people working, living and shopping locally. This is why many have had a good Covid and why many are having a terrific start to 2021.

It seems from what Campbell has said that he does not want that. It appears he would prefer the national chains in the Melbourne CBD to be doing better. Well, James Campbell, therein lies a problem. national chains, especially department stores, are a retail sector in trouble. Brands are going direct, cutting out the middle person department store.

For us, we need to keep doing what we have been doing – evolving our businesses in service of local shoppers with products sourced locally where possible, encouraging local makers and proving the circular value of local.

For me, I’ll ignore Campbell and his shouty pouty Murdoch colleagues. They are an ignorant and selfish lot. They do not serve Australia and Australians well when it comes to discourse on these topics.

I feel for retailers in the Melbourne CBD and all CBDs. However, the drift from big city shopping has been on for a while. This is not a new phenomenon.

There are many retailers who saw this years ago and adjusted their businesses accordingly. Those newsagents are doing well, which is great news. Sadly, we won’t see this as a news story as media outlets prefer the negative over the positive.


Category: Social responsibility

7 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Peter R // Feb 14, 2021 at 8:07 PM

    Mark perhaps what happened to the Newcastle CBD after the Earthquake in the 80s or 90s is relevant here. The CBD never recovered its retail precinct to what is was prior as retail had moved into the suburbs mainly in malls.


  • 2 Peter // Feb 15, 2021 at 6:47 AM

    I am just over hour out of the city by train and my customers say they love not having to go into the office. I think you are right that the CBD situation is unlikely to go back to where it was.

    I am loving the change to what people buy here as a result of this.


  • 3 Graeme Day // Feb 15, 2021 at 7:38 AM

    CBD’s are in transition, have been for many years and will continue to be. COVID has hastened some previous participants into new focus as work from home at least most of the time and the regular meetings in the City with others for collaborative updates.
    it’s not a big deal and hasn’t been one for a long time.
    Thursday nights at Shopping Centres need more focus as Sundays have been taking over for years.
    Sundays are bigger in the CBD areas as well, considered as a family outing.
    we’ll have to take a wait and see position to see just how many do return however it won’t be as it was but it could be much higher than people are forecasting.


  • 4 Steve // Feb 15, 2021 at 12:39 PM

    The transition is well and truly on. Both Covid and technology advances are encouraging CBD office dwellers to work from home. Like Peter we are approximately 2 hrs out of the CBD and we too as well as the majority of retailers in our town have experienced strong sales growth ever since the June long weekend. As an accountant in public practice I am also noticing many professionals still working from home even in regional centres. This is all good news for high street stores and regional towns . The last 12 months have presented a fantastic opportunity for us to transition into non traditional products and I am confident that this opportunity will continue for some time.


  • 5 Andrew R // Feb 15, 2021 at 5:24 PM

    Your pro ABC lefty comments are as biased as your claim about Murdoch. You’re a laugh a minute.

    Andrew R.


  • 6 Mark Fletcher // Feb 16, 2021 at 6:47 AM

    Steve, I think better regional shopping is playing a role too. Plenty of people found in lockdown that local shopping is good, that they don’t need the big stores as much. This is terrific and evolving story.


  • 7 James // Feb 16, 2021 at 8:56 AM

    TBH I think his comments apply as much to property, commerce, events and hospitality, as they do to retail.

    There is no doubt that one of the great attractions of Melbourne is the abundance of arts, sports, entertainment, dining, entertainment, business, and yes to an ever decreasing degree, retail experiences to be had in or in close proximity to the CBD. The death of Melbourne’s CBD would be devastating to all sorts of business sectors in Victoria. The attraction of big department stores in CBDs has been on the decline for many years and with traffic restrictions etc, I think consumers have found better more relevant locations to do their shopping.


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