FREMANTLE’S Business Improvement District brought $1.7 million into the city’s economy in the second half of 2017 according to a report it commissioned.
The not-for-profit company was established by Fremantle council in 2012 to promote business in the city’s CBD. It’s had a tough infancy, losing two CEOs prematurely and facing criticism from council staff that it chewed through $1.8 million for mixed results; that almost resulted in it losing its council funding.
But chairperson Karl Bullers says the BID’s been busy and events it hosted last year were responsible for more than 55,000 people visiting the port city.
“While designing and implementing 14 projects, BID’s two staff members have also responded to more than 1700 enquiries from our members and other stakeholders during the last six months.”
Last year the BID hosted a number of events including an Anne Frank exhibition, Fremantle Winter Wonder World, a Long Table Dinner for St Pat’s and a variety of Christmas activities.
“Things like the Anne Frank exhibition brought over 6000 people into the east end of Freo, which has been having a downturn,” Mr Bullers says.
“The Winter Festival was also great because it brings people into Fremantle at a very quiet time of year, in July.”
But some businesses still appear to be struggling, with an exodus of at least five Fremantle stores in the last couple of months.
Didgeridoo Breath closed its doors this Thursday, converting to a fully online store, and South Fremantle lost colourful nic nac and clothing shop South of the Border on February 23, with Mountain Designs, Ark of Joan and photographer Adam Monk also pulling down their shutters.
Mr Monk says there’s only so much BID can do.
“They are fantastic for raising the profile of Fremantle and getting people to come check us out, and from there it’s up to the retailers and retail is getting harder and harder,” he says.
Mr Monk says Fremantle’s one way streets are a pain in the neck.
“The most common complaint is people can’t navigate their way around.
“Most people come down Leach Highway, then hit the mall and have to go down minor streets and hit a tangle of one-way streets and right turn only.
“Some people turn right around and go home again.”
Mr Monk says it no longer made sense to have a high-street shop.
“I was there for 13 years, it paid off my mortgage, my camera gear, my car, but business has been dropping and there is a changing nature on what people want to spend their money on.”
He says his photo tours are selling well on his online store.
Didgeridoo Breath manager Sanshi says his accountant had been advising him to go online for some time.
“Year by year business is always a bit different, some are better than others,” he says.
“There’s more business opportunity online where you get world traffic, not just Freo traffic.”
Mr Bullers says he thinks Fremantle has a bright future, and encourages businesses to contact the BID if they are struggling.
“The BID is always there and always willing to help any business who comes to our door.”
by MOLLY SCHMIDT