BENDIGO Traders Association president Ross White says he is “extremely concerned” by the number of vacant shops in central Bendigo.
The Optus store in Mitchell Street recently closed, along with Toyworld, Granny May’s, Ultima, Collins Booksellers, Ruffell Family Jewellers, Price Attack, Toasties and more.
Valentines Classic Living furniture store is also holding a closing down sale.
Before the Bounce owner Bob Morley recently counted closed shops in the CBD and said about 35 were vacant.
By contrast, there are no vacant shops in Bendigo Marketplace.
But according to City of Greater Bendigo figures, the CBD floor space vacancy rate was 4.2 per cent on June 30, down from 6 per cent in March 2012.
Mr White said the long election campaign had caused uncertainty and resulted in less spending.
“Every time there’s a federal election it affects the economy,” he said.
“We all know nothing will change, but there’s just a natural slowdown effect.
“But there’s just a general lack of confidence in the future.”
Mr White said local retailers were not on a “fair playing ground” and said the major parties needed to support stores against online sales.
He said local shopping would continue to shrink if people purchased items online.
“Charity starts at home,” Mr White said.
“They’re saying you can’t get various items in Bendigo anymore.
“Of course you can’t because people are buying it online instead.”
Governments need to tax items bought online from overseas to help physical stores, according to Mr White.
“I can’t put a figure on that, but it would have to be more than 10 per cent,” he said.
“I’d say it would have to be approximately 30 per cent. “
Mr White said there was a flow-on effect to online sales.
“When young kids leave school they used to get part-time retail jobs,” he said.
“Those retail jobs aren’t there because those kids are buying online.
“Those shops have closed down because they’re not spending their money in them.”