Signs of the times for retail sector


The owners of a number of major shopping centres across Australia say they are seeing positive results from their innovative approach to the retail downturn.

In a rare interview the normally reclusive twin brothers Perc and Al Dett (main picture) told The Bug that vacant space in their portfolio of retail centres had now reached an average of more than 90% as the national economy continued to slow, wage growth remained stagnant, and consumers cut back on their spending or turned to internet shopping.

“The circumstances we have faced in the past few years have been extremely challenging,” Perc Dett said. “We’ve seen shop after shop in many of our centres close.

“As shoppers and retailers know, the usual response to these closures is for centre management to immediately paint over the old shopfront or erect a sign in the window promising ‘an exciting new retail experience coming soon’ or some similar message, when in reality the management has no idea who will fill the space or if it will ever be filled.”

Al Dett said the practice of covering up of the empty space had always been a longstanding psychological ploy by centre managers to lull shoppers and other retailers into thinking conditions were not as bad as they really were.

“I must say it does work a treat,” he said. “In fact as we speak, the vacancy rate at one of our bigger centres, Dett City in Brisbane, has hit 100%  and the entire place now consists entirely of shops with just those sort of ‘coming soon’ signs.

“Oddly enough we’ve noticed no downturn in consumer foot traffic through the centre, although our studies show almost all of those who go there are constantly focussed on their mobile phones and don’t actually look up while they walk.”

The brothers said they were commissioning more research into the phenomenon, but so far Dett City “still looks as busy as ever”.