A RECENT count of businesses in the Bathurst central business district has found that the vacancy rate is above 10 per cent.
The figure is slightly higher than pre-COVID levels, but has remained stable since the last count in October 2020, considered post-lockdown time.
The information was part of a report to Wednesday's council meeting on the CBD Business Count Model.
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According to the report, there are 532 shops in the CBD. There were 63 vacant stores when the count was done in April 2021.
The 88.1 per cent occupancy rate was down on the October 2019 figure, 90.1 per cent, but was the same as the figure in October 2020.
The report focused on ground floor shops, which saw the numbers improve slightly.
The April count identified 502 ground floor shop spaces in the CBD. There were 57 vacant shops, giving an occupancy rate of 88.6 per cent or a vacancy rate of 11.4 per cent.
George Street had the highest number of ground floor vacancies at 11.
The shopping centres were also factored in.
Armada Bathurst had just one vacancy at the time of the count, which has since been leased, while Bathurst Chase had eight vacancies and Bathurst City Centre had seven.
Across the CBD, retail and accommodation and food services have seen a decline whilst the category of 'other services', which includes automotive, hairdressing and accounting, saw an increase.
Those three categories combined make up 68.1 per cent of all businesses in the CBD.
Bathurst Business Chamber president Catherine Fitzsimons said the chamber was disappointed to see there was a decline in the number of businesses in the CBD.
However, she said it was difficult to tell whether or not all of these closures were a direct result of the pandemic.
"It's very easy to say that COVID did it or it's the fault of this, that or the other, but we've had a lot of things that have made the economy in this area very difficult and we've definitely seen a switch to online trading, partly because of COVID, but then habits change and people don't go back again." Ms Fitzsimons said.
She also flagged the potential for more closures as government support for businesses ends.
"I think we could well see some more. Some businesses have been able to hang on with government support, but as time goes by the government support goes away, some of the buyers' purchasing habits and patterns aren't reversed and then you get these shorter lockdowns in between that just continue to erode the margins or push them closer to the brink," she said.
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