'Huge problem': Mandurah Forum shops forced to close with struggles cited across board

The Peel Chamber of Commerce has admitted retailers are struggling across the board after businesses have been forced to close at the Mandurah Forum - one year after the centre redevelopment.

Mr Sheepskin, Clearwater Surf and Boards, Beauty Queen, Hogs Express, Cotton On owned franchises Ruby Shop and Factorie have shut their doors since the Forum redevelopment on March 22, 2018. 

Ed Harry stores have closed Australia wide, including the Mandurah outlet.

Mr Sheepskin owner Brian Lane said he broke a five-year lease at the Forum in February  because "it wasn't working", and will continue operating his Morley store. 

"I went in thinking, 'this will be a winner'."

Mr Sheepskin owner Brian Lane

"We were losing too much money, it was not sustainable," he said. 

"Everyone is at a loss to understand why it is not working - no one knows.

"It's probably the best centre I have ever been in, it has everything going for it.

"I went in thinking, 'this will be a winner'."

Clearwater Surf and Boards spokeswoman Rebecca Thrift said the surf shop had tried three different approaches to sell more clothes.

"The only thing that worked was when everything was 50 per cent off," she said. 

"That's when we made money. Anyone who was not selling something at a hugely discounted rate was not making money.

"There is something about that centre, there were no buying customers. I wish I knew the answer."

The business has kept its store in Secret Harbour Square, which Ms Thrift said is "selling beautifully".

A Hogs Breath spokesman said their store, located in the food court, was not "doing very well".

"It was so far in the corner," he said.

"The lack of customers...they weren't doing very well."

Peel Chamber of Commerce manager Andrew McKerrell said there were more than 150 empty commercial properties in the City of Mandurah as of November 2018.

"Based on individual observations since this time, it appears that this number is rising and could possibly be in excess of 180," he said.

Any one who was not selling something at a hugely discounted rate was not making money.

Clearwater Surf and Boards spokeswoman Rebecca Thrift

"This is huge problem for our economy and our current unemployment levels, and is not just localised to Mandurah, with empty premises visible in other areas such as Pinjarra, prompting robust discussion around possible solutions, with the debate of deregulated trading hours at the centre.

"As a community it is of the utmost importance to support our local retailers and grocers, during this time."

Mr McKerrell said the Chamber was "heavily focused" on the deregulation debate.

"The question at hand right now is, 'will deregulating shopping hours, allowing retailers to trade until 9pm if they choose to, assist in addressing this issue, or will we see the opposite affect?'," he said. 

"We are all interested in the solution and as an overall community I am confident we can find it, moving our economy from a space of just surviving, to thriving."

As a community it is of the utmost importance to support our local retailers and grocers, during this time.

Peel Chamber of Commerce manager Andrew McKerrell

Mandurah Forum centre manager Jacqueline McKenzie said more than 500,000 customers visit the shopping centre each month. 

"We have recently welcomed several new brands, including Dragon Palace and Laser Clinics Australia, to Mandurah Forum and we have another new retailer opening soon," she said. 

"We've had a few businesses temporarily closed for fit-outs, with two new format stores to reopen within the next few months.

"We're always looking at our retail mix to ensure we're meeting the changing needs of our customers."

Many of the employees the Mandurah Mail approached for comment did not want to be named, in fear of losing their jobs.

We're always looking at our retail mix to ensure we're meeting the changing needs of our customers.

Mandurah Forum centre manager Jacqueline McKenzie

Many cited anti-social behaviour as a reason shoppers may avoid the Mandurah Forum. 

Ms McKenzie said security protocols were continually reviewed and updated.

"Our security team patrols the centre throughout the day and night, and we have a network of CCTV cameras which also monitor the centre," she said.

"We have an established network of support and work closely with our local Mandurah Police to provide training and support for our retailers to help deter anti-social behaviour from occurring."

A Forum employee, who the Mail has chosen not to name, said she had witnessed teenagers riding through the centre on bikes, scooters and skateboards.

"People have stopped coming in because they don't feel safe," she said.

"You have to dodge meth heads walking around abusing you - these people shouldn't be in the shopping centre to start with.

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"If someone is not wearing shoes or look off their face, they shouldn't be allowed to enter.

"It has gotten ridiculous."

A disability support worker, who the Mail has chosen not to name, said she had stopped taking her clients to the centre.

"I was there a couple of times a week, but my clients are impressionable and can become afraid of the anti-social behaviour," she said.

"At the Coles entrance there are people at the doorway sleeping with alcohol next to them..

"It's not the sort of thing you really want to see."

Mandurah Detective Senior Sergeant Trevor Troy has reiterated his strong stance on tackling retail violence this week, after several recent assaults on employees. 

Mandurah Police have conducted recent operations at the Mandurah Forum targeting anti-social behaviour and retail theft.