Debbie Brine at Shoes on East.
Debbie Brine at Shoes on East.

Rocky business faces tough prospect of having to shut shop

DEBBIE Brine is thousands of dollars behind in her rent payments and faces having to close her doors.

The owner of Shoes on East in Rockhampton's CBD says her story is just one of many among the independent business retailers.

This year she celebrated 15 years in business but the past three years have been a downward spiral and struggle.

Looking over her profits, she is now down a total of 60 per cent from what she was a few years ago, equalling a loss of $250,000.

There are many things the downturn of the business can be attributed to inlcuding the closure of Quay St and development of the Rockhampton riverfront, extensions at Stockland Rockhampton and just the general habits of the shopping community, Debbie said.

She said people were a lot more casual these days and didn't put as much effort into what they wore anymore.

They are happy to wear the one kind of shoe and don't mind if it doesn't match their outfit.

Shoppers also expect things to be on sale.

There seems to be this mentality these days "if you're paying full price, you're being ripped off", Debbie said.

But it is not that simple for Debbie - she doesn't get things on sale from her supplier.

"As an independent I have to deal with a middle man that has to make a profit too," she said.

Car parking has always been an issue in the CBD but Debbie said that was hardly a concern now as there were less people going to the area so there were always plenty of parks.

Debbie moved from next door to Phil Peel Jewellers four years ago to in between Chemist Warehouse and Silly Solly's which she thinks is a good location.

"You just don't have people walk in the door hardly anymore," she said.

"You go outside and there's no one, you are selling to no one."

The charity hawkers asking passer-bys on the street for money also doesn't help.

Debbie says they border on harassment and it puts people off going down the street.

Looking to the future, Debbie is at a hard crossroads.

She can't see any other alternative than having to close the business next year.

She said she did have her loyal customers who tried to keep her going, but it was not enough.

"I'll lose everything after 15 years," she said.

"It's been a big investment and I have nothing left."

And she says she is not alone.

"You can't make a living here in East St as an independent retailer," Debbie said.

"I can't pay my rent; that is where I am at. I am thousands and thousands behind.

"I'm not the only one who can't pay the rent, I'm not the only one who probably can't last.

"The ones that will be left are the ones that own their own buildings and don't have to pay rent."

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