E-Shed exodus

POOR trade and risky leases have seen up to 12 traders abandon their stalls at the E-Shed markets on Victoria Quay.

Eight threw in the towel just this month, some having run their businesses for nearly a decade.

Fremantle Ports confirmed the departures while flagging the introduction of a small tapas bar on the harbour site.

It says it has undertaken significant upgrades since taking over management in October 2011, though traders say air-conditioning and smoke alarms are only just being installed.

“Promotion of E-Shed markets as a visitor destination has also been stepped up and Fremantle Ports has initiated and coordinated a number of free activities to attract patrons,” says a Ports statement sent to the Herald.

“Despite these continuing efforts to attract patrons and assist the market’s 70 or so traders, WA’s current retail climate has resulted in eight E-Shed Markets tenants giving notice of their intention to vacate their leases or requesting rent reductions.

“Fremantle Ports is currently reviewing these submissions.”

Medieval Creations owner Natalie Kelly, 78, has run the stall since her 55-year-old daughter Sonja Girling died of pancreatic cancer two years ago, after running it for 15 years.

“It’s dead,” she told the Herald. “No-one can afford to be here.”

She says nine traders are leaving by the end of this month. High rents, low traffic flow through the old building and a lack of marketing by Fremantle ports and the council are some of the reasons for people bailing.

She’s switching to volunteer work at Murdoch community hospice that cared for her family.

Ms Kelly’s comments echo those of other traders who told the Herald numbers had dropped when Sunday trading was introduced. Free parking at Garden City doesn’t help.

“Now it’s not enough for me to make a living,” says one trader who did not want to be named. “I can’t stay just to pay the rent.

“I can’t afford to pay the six-monthly rents being offered by Fremantle ports. I hope to stay in Freo but I can’t stay here. It’s a shame.”

Under the amendments to the commercial tenancy (retail shops) agreements act of 1985, Fremantle Ports can offer six-month leases instead of 89 days. E Shed Market traders have the option of a six-month lease but can have an 89-day lease if they want.

Fun Funky Fashion’s Rosanna Leo, 64, whose wares have been on sale since 2005, gave notice at the end of last month.

“It’s quiet here,” she says, still working out how she will offload about $20,000 in stock. “I’ll probably switch to one-day markets at fairs and agricultural shows, it’s too slow to sell my stock. The location is absolutely gorgeous and potentially it could be amazing.”

by CARMELO AMALFI

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