Our Say | The challenge is to be a centre of attention

CAN Bathurst really support three major shopping centres in the CBD?

It’s a question that seems to come up whenever discussion turns to one of those three centres – Bathurst City Centre, Stockland or Bathurst Chase – going through a period when it looks to be struggling.

Despite the growth in Bathurst’s population in recent years, there is a persistent feeling that the shopping centres are engaged in a game of commercial musical chairs – that for one to gain a tenant or foot traffic, another has to lose.

And that’s without even considering the rise and rise of internet shopping – which we’re told is hurting bricks and mortar retailers throughout the country.

Looking pessimistically, however, is the easy option. And the real picture in this case is far more nuanced.

There is no doubt that more money is being spent online, but there is also no doubt that the Bathurst CBD remains the centre of our city’s life.

The vast majority of us still travel into the middle of town for work each day and the CBD’s parks, hotels, cafes and restaurants draw us on weekends and evenings.

Recent investment decisions – from the ongoing redevelopment of the former McIntosh, McPhillamy and Co building to the multi-million-dollar plans for Tremain’s Mill – show a belief that those central streets will remain the focus for our city life for many years to come.

Our three CBD shopping centres can co-exist, rather than cannibalise each other, by accepting that they do not have to be all things to all people.

What one centre does well – whether it is fashion or food – the other centres do not necessarily have to try to emulate. They just have to find their niche and make it work.

The centres’ proximity to each other is often seen as a negative, but that is a matter of perspective.

Consider Dubbo: a shopper at Orana Mall in that city’s east is unlikely to make their purchases and then get in the car and drive through town to Dubbo City Centre for that one last thing.

A Bathurst shopper, by comparison, can park at one of the city’s three shopping centres and buy a shirt from one, lunch from another and a few groceries from the third without raising a sweat and without moving the car.

It’s up to each of the centres, however, to make that trip worthwhile.