By Georgia Hackett
Retailers have mixed emotions about Fremantle’s $270 million redevelopment of King’s Square, which will change the face of the port city.
Some small business owners fear there will be no room for market stalls and local crafts as big-name outlets move in on the town centre.
A market stall owner in King’s Square, who did not want to be named, laments the downward spiral of the friendly Fremantle atmosphere, saying she has noticed a steady decline not only in sales but in social interaction between shoppers and retailers.
“I’ve been in this market square for five years, nearly six… it used to be 10 times bigger” she says, looking up and down the market strip. “There are only four stalls … there used to be 35.”
She claims bad business has caused many stallholders to leave the area, or give up on sales altogether.
The main concern of existing stallholders is that there will be no place for market stalls in the new Kings Square shopper’s precinct and there is an impression that Fremantle is a town of falling fortune.
Fremantle mayor Brad Pettitt is well aware of the problems faced by local retailers and is optimistic about the future of the local shopping scene.
He says over the past few years there has been a process of local ‘degentrification’ occurring – “local artists, local designers are coming back in”, he says.
“Retail’s changing, we’re getting some really interesting, innovative local retailers and that, for me is actually making Fremantle’s retail mix a really interesting one,” Mr Pettitt says.
Although the redevelopment includes a gentrification in the area, he believes it will increase retail diversity and support Fremantle’s unique vibe as well as oom for community markets and local stallholders.
“The great challenge is getting the right kinds of developments that encourage diversity and keep Freo that little bit weird and little bit different,” he says.
Local business owner Jordan Gannaway is optimistic about the prospects for retail.
Having recently opened his first permanent store since starting T-shirt brand Onshore Threads in 2014, he thinks retail is looking up, not down.
“I think the new development is going to be really cool. It’ll be all local artists like the ones in Many. It can only go up from here.”