Traders feeling merry

• Bianca Buchanan from Margaret River Hemp Co.

FREMANTLE businesses are hopeful of a strong Christmas trading period, after noticing a recent uptick in sales.

Despite the grim trading predictions in Deloitte’s annual Christmas survey this week, and concerns from Perth traders that prompted a headline in the West Australian of “Ho no Christmas”, local shops say things are going well.

“All the shops have pretty high expectations,” says Stevie Crouch, who works at wool and leather retailer Australian Lifestyle in Market Street.

Welcoming

Ms Crouch says Fremantle is more welcoming to customers than other shopping areas.

“Especially in summer because it is so close to the beach, people can go and have a swim, or go and sit by the harbour and have something to eat, and then come shopping.”

Bianca Buchanan has seen the ups and (mostly) downs of Fremantle’s economy in the six years she’s been managing the local Margaret River Hemp Co store on Cantonment Street’s Atwell Buildings, but she’s feeling a little positive at the moment.

“It’s funny you should say that,” she responded to the Chook’s question about sales, “because just in the last week or so things have picked up.

“There’s been a lot of people up and down the shop.

“I think it’s starting to turn around and you can see people saying how much they love the old buildings and how relaxed it is; it really feels like they’re coming back.”

Dangerfield staffer Sam says Fremantle has a different customer demographic to other parts of the state.

“Fremantle has its own sense of community, we have a lot of regular customers that we see all the time,” she says.

Bryce Denysiuk from fashion and design collective Common Ground thinks they’re well placed for Christmas, despite noticing shops still closing down in his section of High Street in Freo’s West End.

“We thought last Christmas was pretty quiet – could have been better – so we have already started to make changes for this year to try and get some better customers,” Mr Denysiuk said.

He’s bumped up his social media presence and advertising budget in the hopes of boosting sales.

Not everyone was so upbeat, with Brayden Stiles from The Academy Brand saying things were still so quiet he didn’t bother opening at all on Mondays.

Free parking

“So, I think leading into the Christmas period, the traffic should pick up a little bit, but we have noticed that shopping in Fremantle for clothes doesn’t seem to be a huge market,” Mr Stiles said.

All the businesses welcomed Fremantle council introducing two hours of free parking in its off-street car parks for the Christmas trading period.

“I think its a great idea,” Artisan Store owner Rowena Mitchell said.

“It encourages more people into Fremantle; the biggest issue that people talk about when they come here is that there is no parking and it is expensive,” she said.

Ms Buchanan agreed, saying it was frustrating to have people in her store, only to watch them scurry away after checking their phone and discovering their parking was about to run out.

The only catch is that customers would need to sign up to the council PayStay app to get the freebie.

Acting mayor Andrew Sullivan said the lead-up to Christmas was hugely important for retail and hospitality businesses.

“The Christmas period is often a make-or-break opportunity for many small businesses and we want to help them get the most out of this important time,” he said.

“Fremantle offers a unique shopping experience with a huge range of retailers and products that you just won’t find anywhere else.”

“And now with two hours of free parking, there is even more reason to come down and take advantage of everything Fremantle has to offer this Christmas.”

More than 2300 bays are available across 27 off-street car parks in Fremantle.

by ATSU TSURU and STEVE GRANT

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