Bridge Road is in the middle of a retail storm. More than one in 10 shops on the kilometre-long strip is empty. Its vacancy rate peaked at 11.61 per cent in January, agents CBRE estimate.
Like Toorak Road, South Yarra, Bridge Road faces a double whammy. Shoppers are moving online while beefed-up bulky goods, direct factory outlets, refurbished suburban malls and heavyweight CBD retailers take a toll. Rapid urbanisation has also introduced disruptive projects.
Apartments are springing up along both strips but Bridge Road faces further difficulties with the continuing redevelopment of Epworth Hospital and Coles Plaza.
City of Yarra mayor Jackie Fristacky also blames high rents for the street's woes. "Property owners need to recognise the impact high rentals have on vacancy rates, particularly given changes to consumer spending."
Others suggest the street needs wider footpaths, a coherent parking strategy and a ban on "for lease" signs that send a negative message. Pop-up shops in empty spaces may help solve Bridge Road's woes, one trader said.
Smaller, cheaper shops create opportunities businesses, clothing retailer Herschel Landes said, but businesses and landlords needed to recognise things change. "They've got to come up with exciting new options that will attract customers."