Back in business: Melbourne officially has the lowest CBD retail vacancy rate in Australia

It's been tough going for our city's business owners in recent years, but Melbourne has bounced back

Liv Condous
Written by
Liv Condous
Lifestyle Writer
A Melbourne laneway with people walking through.
Photograph: City of Melbourne

Melbourne has never had a shortage of shopping, from the boutiques of Chapel Street to vintage flea markets – you can shop 'til you drop in our city. But, it's been hard yakka for retailers (particularly small businesses) in the wake of the rising costs of living and various economic challenges – not to mention those weird couple of years during the pandemic where everything was forced to shut. But we should be very proud of our city, because its businesses have well and truly bounced back, better than anywhere else in the country. 

According to the latest Melbourne Economy Snapshot report, shopfront vacancy rates across the CBD have halved in the last year, falling to an impressive 6.5 per cent. 800 new shopfronts have opened in the past year alone, with the city finally fully coming back to life after it became an actual ghost town for a stint. 

In the inner 'burbs, retail is thriving too – with shopfront vacancy rates in suburbs like Carlton, North Melbourne and Kensington dropping a whopping 40 per cent in the past two years. Retail vacancy in Lygon Street has experienced a dramatic drop, decreasing 50 per cent. Thank goodness, because if the legendary café and restaurant scene on Lygon Street ever disappeared, then we'd all know things are seriously dire. 

The flourishing retail scene has coincided with an uptick in workers returning to the CBD, too, with commuter traffic recording a huge increase at the start of this year. This has contributed to a big boost in spending within the city, which has tripled since 2021. This comes when businesses are being encouraged to stay open later, to allow for post-work spending when the 9 to 5-ers clock off. It also helps that tourists have well and truly returned to Melbourne (as you can tell by how many people you have to dodge when walking down Swanston Street in a hurry) – in the first quarter of this year, a ginormous $1.3 billion was spent by visitors to our city. That's a lot of dough. 

So, all in all: Melbourne's CBD is back to 'normal', and better than ever. How good. 

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