Major retail stores Rockmans, Noni B and Strandbags will close their doors to customers at Goulburn Square towards the end of May 2021.
The Mosaic Brands owned stores – Rockmans and Noni B – will close on 26 May, while Strandbags will close on 22 May, according to employees.
Rockmans Goulburn store manager, who wished to remain anonymous, said a letter from Mosaic Brands’ head office stated the closure is due to a “failure to reach leasing negotiations”.
The store manager said she doesn’t know how much Goulburn Square charges Rockmans in rent, but that the store’s sales “justified a prime retail position.”
However, the company that also owns Autograph, Rivers, W.Lane, Crossroads, Beme and Katies announced in October 2020 it would close 250 stores in the next six months, citing “unrealistic rental requests” and a move to online shopping.
A Strandbags Goulburn employee also told Region Media the store is closing because the owners were unable to renegotiate a leasing agreement – but they believe it is a generic excuse.
Region Media understands two of the five employees at Goulburn’s Rockmans store will transfer to Autograph inside Goulburn Square, and two of the five employees at Strandbags have found alternative work. However, Noni B could not be reached for comment.
The store manager said Rockmans staff were told about the closure on 26 April, while the Strandbags employee said she had known for about three weeks.
“Our head office has been extremely helpful and supportive trying to find all of us alternative jobs, but since Noni B is also closing, most of us can’t get redeployed anywhere else unless we travel,” she said.
The store manager is one of the three Rockmans employees unable to transfer to another store owned by Mosaic Brands.
“I can’t be redeployed because I’ll be eight months’ pregnant by then,” she said. “I will be without work for four weeks before my maternity leave kicks in so that’s stressful in itself.”
The store manager will rely on parental leave pay from Centrelink until she can return to work.
Millers at Goulburn Marketplace will also temporarily close at the end of May for renovations at the shopping centre.
“Millers will be back before Christmas in the same location, but in a bigger space,” said Steve Lacey, CEO of Lederer Group, which owns Goulburn Marketplace.
Goulburn Chamber of Commerce president Darrell Weekes said he is extremely saddened to see the businesses close and employees out of work.
“It’s another loss, another vacant retail space, and the more vacant retail spaces, the worse we look,” he said. “But the people I feel really sorry for are the employees because where are they going to find another job? This means four fewer businesses they can work in.”
Mr Weekes said there is demand for shopfronts in Goulburn’s centre but some remain empty, including the former Harris Scarfe shop on Auburn Street, which closed in September 2019.
“It’s hard to know if it’s because it’s not the right space, or it’s the right space but not at the right price,” he said.
Region Media has contacted Goulburn Square for comment.