Office Choice has recently opened in Prince Street.
Office Choice has recently opened in Prince Street. Caitlan Charles

What's in store for Prince Street's uncertain future?

THE future of Prince Street has been up for debate for a long time, with a perception among many in the community that the main street's popularity with business owners is dwindling.

In August, The Daily Examiner counted nine empty shops up for rent in the block from Fitzroy St to Pound St, and not not a lot has changed since.

While two new businesses have moved into the street, while Big River Pizza has moved to a new shop in the King Street Mall.

Noel Smith from Low Pressure Surf said there are a lot of factors that make it difficult for business to survive in Prince Street.

"The price of rent and I think quite a few landlords are out of touch with what's happening in the economy," Mr Smith said.

"Rent is going up, electricity is going up and the cost of stock is going up while wages aren't going up, people are going on to casual and losing work.

"There is a flow on effect into the community."

But it's not just the cost of running a business that is causing the issues.

"There is the impact of online shopping, you do have to throw some of this back on to the general public," Mr Smith said.

"You've only got to talk to Australia Post to find out what their figures are like."

Mr Smith added that unlike Grafton Mall and Grafton Shoppingworld, there was no one actively trying to bring new businesses into Prince Street.

"We have to rely on the initiative of the landlord or the real estate agent."

"The chamber of commerce are trying to develop a climate that is more inviting for interdependent business."

But Mr Smith said this was a positive time of year for people in retail with people often opting to shop locally for Christmas presents.

"If we didn't have a Christmas period, we wouldn't have the retail industry of this country," he said.

"Christmas accounts for probably a quarter of my turnover for a year in one month.

"It's heartening to hear people say they've started or nearly finished their Christmas shopping."

Mr Smith is also positive about the town's long term outlook as a whole with the new bridge and jail bringing new businesses to the area.

"I can see the future being a lot brighter."

New president of the chamber of commerce Katie Kelemec said the chamber were sitting down this week to talk about what they would focus on for the year.

"I can't confirm what our primary focus will be, but I'll put it to the executive committee," she said.

"We see shops come and go, we want to entice shops to stay, and it's our focus to bring people to town and keep them."

Ms Kelemec added that one way the community can help the situation is to join the chamber of commerce.

"The people who own those places which aren't filled should get involved. If there are any barriers to getting them in to see if we can help.

"Joining your local chamber is one way you can do that, that's the way we can assist you as best we can."

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