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Michael Baker
Smarter Writer

Michael Baker is a retail consultant and vice-chair of the ICSC's Asia-Pacific Research Council

Michael Baker
Smarter Writer

Michael Baker is a retail consultant and vice-chair of the ICSC's Asia-Pacific Research Council

Independent Retailers have been doing it tough in recent years and the accelerating globalisation of Australian fashion Retail isn't doing them many favours.

As recently as five years ago, independents − i.e. retailers not part of a chain − accounted for 43 per cent of all apparel, footwear and accessories sales made by specialty stores, according to Australian Bureau of Statistics data. That market share has dropped to just over 32 per cent in the year through March 2014, a phenomenal decline in fortunes. Part of the decline is due to independents shutting up shop, while many of the survivors are just clinging on.

The entry of global fashion heavyweights into the Australian retail arena is not helping. The dam really broke with the arrival of Gap in August 2010. Since then, Zara has opened nine stores and others are piling in. Hennes & Mauritz, Topshop, Uniqlo, Muji and Hollister are already operating stores; Victoria's Secret and Forever 21 are about to launch and a number of others are sniffing around.

shirts on a rack
Part of the decline is due to independents shutting up shop, while many of the survivors are just clinging on.

- MICHAEL BAKER, RETAIL ANALYST

Now for the good news

  1. Australian brands cut through with discerning buyers. Probably the best news is that while global retailers will start to dominate mass fashion, their impact will be disproportionately on mainstream chains in CBDs and large shopping centres. There will be an appetite for innovative Australian brands, unique Australian design and more niche-oriented concepts that offer a clear alternative to the global ho-hum that everyone else is wearing.
  2. Rents might drop in some areas. Another potential positive – albeit less certain – is that rents may become increasingly flexible in less dominant regional shopping centres, sub-regional shopping centres and suburban strips that are unable to attract the global names. Already there has been some widespread slippage showing up in rental growth.

The verdict 

There’s no question though that more tough times lie ahead for independent retailers in Australia, particularly those clinging to outdated operating models that run on outdated real estate platforms. For the sake of the domestic rag trade it is hoped that the 32 per cent specialty market share is as low as it goes.

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