Shoppers outside Godfreys at Westfield Woden Plaza. Photo: Jeffrey Chan
At least three businesses positioned between the supermarket behemoths of Coles and Woolworths, in Westfield Woden, will close in coming weeks, forced out by high rents and a retail downturn.
Small business owners say they are feeling the pinch from a combination of competition from the supermarkets and a general downturn in consumer spending in the centre, although Westfield has been inflexible on the rent being charged.
''Rents are killing us,'' said one business owner, speaking on the condition of anonymity. ''There's not a very good outlook for small businesses here.''
The entrance to Westfield Woden Plaza in Canberra.
Both Edelweiss Gourmet Deli and the Godfreys vacuum cleaner shop were advertising closing down clearance sales on Monday morning, although centre management was seen ordering the removal of the signs, which are not permitted under the conditions of the lease.
Godfreys is closing on March 3, with the shop manager saying that a new lease arrangement could not be negotiated.
Edelweiss is closing on February 28, after more than 40 years in the centre, as it also could not reach a lease agreement with Westfield.
Another local business owner, Peter Martin, will close his shop on February 28, but spoke on condition his franchise was not named.
''Small business in the ACT is capitulating really,'' he said. ''The last three years, we've lost so much money it's not funny.''
Westfield reduced his rent by ''a small amount,'' but not nearly enough to keep him afloat.
''It's minor compared to the losses that we made and the reduced customers. We're averaging 750 customers a week less than what we were in 2009, 2010.''
Mr Martin puts it down to the ACT having the largest amount of space per capita, not helped by the addition of the Majura Park shopping centre, and the loss of jobs in public service departments in Phillip.
''It's becoming a one-stop shop as far as Woolworths and Coles goes as well,'' he said of the increasing need to compete with the giants.
Other businesses are still negotiating new leases with Westfield and weighing up their future too, something Mr Martin said could be devastating for the remaining shops.
''People won't want to come here … they're going to see shops boarded up, it's going to look like a ghost town,'' he said.
''Westfield need to wake up to their business model. They're getting too greedy with what's happening in the economy and they need to take a few blows like everyone else has.''
Another business owner with time still left on his lease agreed, saying there was a significant downturn when Westfield extended paid parking to the weekend as a ''money grab''.
''It killed the weekend trade,'' he said, also on the condition of anonymity.
''The way people shop has changed too, we used to get a lot of flow off [the supermarkets]. When they were busy, we'd have a really good day, but [cost of living pressures] made them all tighten up with what they buy and Woolies and Coles are both basically a one-stop shop.''
A Westfield spokesperson said it does not disclose details of tenancy negotiations, but works closely with retailers to ''meet their needs and expectations in a realistic way''.
''It's a normal part of business for there to be a degree of turnover in the make-up of retailers at any centre, however, at Westfield Woden, this is no higher than usual,'' the spokesperson said.