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Beaufort St feels the bite
Traders say foot traffic has dropped off in Beaufort Street. Picture: Gerald Moscarda/The West Australian

The retail face of Beaufort Street is changing, with a growing number of small businesses closing their doors or moving because of high rents and falling foot traffic.

More than half a dozen independent retailers have left the landmark Mt Lawley strip in the past 18 months amid claims the area has become a ghost town during the day.

Those who remain admit trade has slowed but are confident the dedicated local network of residents and businesses will overcome the challenges facing the suburb.

Beaufort Street Network founder John Carey, who is also a City of Vincent councillor, said the street had become "a victim of its own success", with landlords increasing rents as the suburb became more popular.

"It's become one of the premier strips in Perth," he said. "At night it is bustling, we've got a fantastic array of bars and restaurants.

"But it has grown in popularity, and what you then see is landlords capitalising on that by increasing their rents, pushing out independent small retailers and making it only affordable for cafes and restaurants."

One of those independent retailers is the Ruck Rover General Store, owned by sisters Claire and Isabelle Trolio.

When their lease expired in August, they relocated their clothing and gift store to William Street in Northbridge, a move that paid off immediately.

"The reason we didn't stay was because rents were too high for the kind of place we wanted and we'd noticed the change in pedestrian traffic over the last six years," Claire Trolio said.

"In the last two years it had become really quiet and that was to do with other businesses closing.

"It was becoming less of a daytime place."

Beauty salon owner Bridget van Herk moved her Beaufort Street business to Angove Street in North Perth a year ago and is now paying a third of the $66,000 annual rent she was billed in Mt Lawley.

"We were there for three years and business was steadily declining," she said.

"We had difficulty with our landlord and didn't get anywhere, so we left. Paid parking didn't help business and with the new bars there, we were finding in the morning there would be bottles everywhere.

"It used to be a busy shopping precinct but it steadily declined."

Among other businesses to leave are homewares store Test Tube, beauty salon Bridget Black, vintage store Winifred and Bance, the Pony Club, the Noodle Box and Vintage Tatt, which will close in the coming weeks.

Claire Trolio, of Ruck Rover, is happier after moving. Picture: John Mokrzycki/The West Australian

Inadequate free parking, high rents and more chain stores popping up along the strip were among the criticisms from local retailers when The West Australian visited Beaufort Street last week.

Many agreed the area was thriving at night but said trade was suffering during the day.

Denise Oma, who runs the Dressing Room clothing boutique, said Mt Lawley was becoming a ghost town during the day. "It risks losing its individuality because the little quirky, independent shops are the first ones to go in tough economic times," she said.

Dale Emery, who owns the Method Clothing boutique, said her business was surviving, but she believed slower trade was not exclusive to Mt Lawley.

"If you put together higher rents with lower trade, it hurts," she said.

"It has been the worst winter we've had in the seven years we've been here. We've seen the rises and now we're seeing the falls."

But she said there were many positives, particularly thanks to the Beaufort Street Network.

"Both residents and the business community want to see it remain an iconic place and want it to succeed," she said.

Mr Carey admitted it was a challenging time for Beaufort Street.

"We have these great bars and restaurants now but you need to retain diversity," he said.

"We are being kept on our toes and we are concerned about the empty leases, but as long as we have that community and that commitment to look at different ways of doing things, we are going to do well."

He said the coming Beaufort Street Festival and a new $200,000 council-funded street art project would help ensure the area did not lose its individuality and charm.

"One of the standouts of Beaufort Street is that it has a strong community, and businesses and residents work together as one. It is a really positive force."