City  risks losing  shopping character
Losing character: Elizabeth Schmitz. Picture: Nic Ellis/ The West Australian

The woman behind the Elizabeth's second-hand bookshops empire and a 40-year veteran of Perth's retail landscape says the city is in danger of losing its character as high-end international retailers squeeze out the independents.

Days after Elizabeth Schmitz's new Hay Street store opened its doors, the normally media-shy businesswoman became the latest retailer to speak out about the need to maintain the city's retail diversity.

She said stores such as Elizabeth's drew shoppers in a way "prestige" retailers did not.

"What really worries me is that there's just going to be no character left in our city at all," Ms Schmitz said.

"I've been here (in Hay Street) 18 years, I always pay my rent and the shop is full every lunchtime - how many people do you see in Prada and Gucci?

"A big part of me worries about the people who live and work in the city and how the city is going to become characterless."

Ms Schmitz's previous city store at 820 Hay Street was forced to close this month after her lease was not renewed. It is understood the space will be taken over by luxury leather goods retailer Oroton.

Only a last-minute deal to secure space at 845 Hay Street stopped Ms Schmitz from vacating the shopping strip after 18 years.

Nearby on King Street a few independent stores - among them Stiller, Zekka, Wasteland, Periscope and Ruth Tarvydas - have closed in recent years, while the global names of Chanel, Prada, Louis Vuitton and Tiffany & Co have moved in.

Their presence has sparked criticism from the likes of Wheels & Dollbaby designer Melanie Greensmith, who said she did not want the street to become "a row of massive corporate companies".

Churchill Knight director Aldo Gianotti, whose real estate company manages many properties in the area, said change was inevitable because cities, buildings and retailers needed to move with the times.

The West Australian

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