The Shepparton central business district’s shop vacancy rate has again dropped, to 8.2 per cent, marking a welcome boost for the city’s small business fortunes.
But filling vacant shops along Wyndham St and High St remains a challenge for Greater Shepparton City Council’s economic development team, with the volume of passing B-double trucks proving a strong deterrent.
Council’s investment attraction manager Geraldine Christou said the two key arterials continued to have challenges, citing a number of vacancies located close together on both streets.
‘‘We largely attribute this to the volume of heavy vehicles, particularly in High St,’’ Ms Christou said.
But she conceded interest was turning a corner in Wyndham St, speculating the ever-growing court precinct and the coming new Shepparton Art Museum as playing roles.
Some $10million in funding to start planning for the long-awaited Goulburn Valley Shepparton bypass was provided in this year’s Victorian Government budget — funding broadly welcomed in the region.
Ms Christou said consultation done as part of bypass advocacy, including with retailers and consumers, had indicated the volume of traffic and heavy vehicles using High St did deter people from attempting to parallel park in High St.
She said B-doubles could prove intimidating for motorists.
‘‘That’s why we’re advocating very strongly for the bypass,’’ she said.
In the meantime, roadworks to sections of Welsford St hope to eventually relieve pressure from Wyndham St and High St by shouldering increased truck traffic.
She said these were aimed at encouraging heavy vehicles to use alternative routes, ‘‘especially for that east west link’’.
Ms Christou said Maude St had seen the biggest improvement in the latest audit, while Fryers St — increasingly marketed as a food and drink hub — continued to thrive.
She said the downward trending vacancy rate was pleasing and argued it demonstrated consumer confidence.
In June, vacancy rates in Shepparton’s CBD dropped below 10 per cent to their lowest level in half a decade.
A jump in cafes and lunch spots were credited for the boost mid-year. And the trend of food businesses being the key entries into the market continued in the latest audit.
During the past quarter, Ms Christou said this had been tempered with a healthy influx of gyms opening up.
‘‘Obviously, the retail scene is changing, the retail mix and the service mix in the CBD is starting to reflect that,’’ she said.