A Busselton business owner looking to expand her home-based salon into Busselton's central business district found commercial properties in Perth were a lot cheaper.
Elise Muscedere has operated a cosmetic tattoo clinic from her home, which has seen significant success in the last few years.
Ms Muscedere had hoped to move her business into the CBD to open a training academy, as well as, introduce additional services and take on more staff to expand her business.
She shopped around for a retail space in Busselton and was shocked to discover how expensive it was going to cost, with landlords charging around $30,000 for 70 to 90 square metres.
"On top of that the tenant is responsible for the yearly land rates, water rates and all other costs associated with the property, not like a residential property," she said.
Ms Muscedere researched the commercial property prices in Perth to understand and compare the markets.
"I found the same sized retail space in Cottesloe, Subiaco and Claremont were significantly lower, the average cost being between $18,000 to $22,000 for the same size or similar," she said.
"I realised it was a better option to open up in an affluent suburb in Perth with a walk by potential that outweighed Busselton's walk by potential by millions."
Ms Muscedere said commercial rent prices in Busselton did not match the current market, which had seen people spending less.
"In the end, small business start failing because they cannot afford the costs associated with leasing a property and the lack of spending in the town," she said.
"If our house prices go down we cannot simply charge what we want because we want it. Life doesn't work that way and neither does the market."
Ms Muscedere said she was shocked there were no guidelines for property owners to keep their properties tenanted to deter them from being empty.
"Even Fremantle have introduced higher rates for retail owners who do not keep their property leased most of the year," she said.
"This town is in an emergency to rectify this problem."
Landlords need to be fair in current economic climate
Busselton Land and Estate director John Krikken said while commercial rents on Queen and Prince Streets were more expensive than other locations in Busselton, landlords did need to be realistic in what is a tough economic environment.
Mr Krikken said cheaper rents were available at properties in Busselton that were located along the highway were tenants paid $150 per square metre or less.
"It is very hard to find a small space on the main streets and the smaller a space you have the more you pay per square metre," he said.
"Commercial properties are very tightly held in Busselton, I own the building where Busselton Land and Estate is located and I have not increased the rent in the last three years because it is tough in real estate.
"Landlords do need to be realistic about it, most leases have a fixed percentage on them.
"I have a four per cent increase here, but if businesses are not making a lot of money then why should businesses be put up the wall?"
Mr Krikken said reasonable landlords would negotiate a rental price with the business owner based on what they could afford to pay.
"If I had a property and saw the tenant was struggling I would be realistic," he said.
"If you were a reasonable landlord and you saw your tenant was struggling then you would sit down and say, let's not put the rents up for the next three to five years."
Revitalising the CBD
Busselton resident Jo Barrett-Lennard has been researching what other places were doing to keep their town centre's free from empty shops.
Ms Barrett-Lennard said what had worked in other places was community cooperatives were people would rented a shared space together.
"It is people that have pop-up stalls, artisans," she said.
"People want to see the CBD revitalised but do not have the small business economic momentum to make it happen.
"One thing I did come across in this research is that you needed a developer of communities, even bringing people together to brainstorm ideas to make that happen.
"The other things I found other than revitalising the buildings, was also to revitalise the relationships, this is where I feel like there is breakdown in some of the spaces which are not being used.
"With no economic momentum in these areas, if you want to sail then you need to bring your own wind and look at ways to make it happen.
"There are places which have been successful in doing that."