BENDIGO businesses say they are under pressure as consumers spend less across the Australian market.
It comes after several nationwide chains have collapsed, some like Harris Scarfe closing Bendigo outlets.
Administrators for Colette by Colette Hayman have attributed the collapse to a weak retail market.
Williamson Street store the Complete Garden owner Annie Matheson said spending was down across Bendigo businesses.
She said sales would normally build from the first week of December, but that hadn't happened in 2019.
Mrs Matheson said sales were at least 10-12 per cent lower than normal. She has noticed trade slowly dropping for the past six to eight months.
"December, would normally be slow the first week, and building up and building up and building up. And it really just didn't happen," Ms Matheson said.
"We probably had eight or 10 really good days before Christmas, and that's the period we rely on to get us through the rest of the summer and into the winter."
Ms Matheson said slow trade had put enormous pressure on the business.
"We've got to pay our rent every month, we have our overheads, power, heating cooling, that sort of thing," she said.
"They're the bills that still have to get paid. What it means is that we can't fill our shops with as much stock."
LaTrobe Business School's Earl Jobling said online spending, weak wages growth, large mortgages and uncertain employment all probably contributed to Australia's weak retail market.
Mr Jobling said the market had been dropping for sometime.
He said wages growth, an uptick in consumer confidence, or more certainty in employment could make a change to the retail sector.
Moroni's Bike Shop manager Corey Mitchell said trade was very slow, a good 30 per cent drop from the previous year over Christmas.
Mr Mitchell said the shop suffered from online shopping, with brands selling to these companies at heavily discounted rates.
He said changing attitudes towards cycling might have meant people turned to the sport less.
Mr Mitchell said spending often dropped around election time, but it had not picked up after the May 2019 election.
He said this put pressure on the business, which still turned a profit, but less than it used to.
At Mitchell Street music shop Muso's Stuff owner Greg Perry said expensive rents put pressure on local businesses.
Mr Petty said that as a specialist store, Muso's Stuff was a bit buffered from immediate change in retail.
But he said the amount of empty shops in Bendigo showed the environment was not sustainable for local businesses.
"Rents have to come down if we want to save our streets, and we want to save our shopping strips and our shopping centres," he said.
"What's happened is that rents have continually gone up. But if you talk to most retail businesses, their sales and their margin hasn't necessarily followed, so something has to give."
Have you signed up to the Bendigo Advertiser's daily newsletter and breaking news emails? You can register below and make sure you are up to date with everything that's happening in central Victoria.