CHARLESTOWN Square retailers have accused shopping centre owner General Property Trust of virtually destroying their businesses, with the centre's $350 million redevelopment leading to massive revenue losses.
Three retailers are taking legal action against GPT, claiming the corporate giant failed to disclose its redevelopment plans when they were renegotiating new leases.
A fourth retailer, a New Zealand Natural franchise owned by Paul and Amanda Hodgins, is taking political action, lobbying the state and federal governments to make GPT pay adequate compensation for the loss of their $150,000 business.
The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) is investigating the Hodgins' case.
Mr Hodgins said when construction work began on the redevelopment and a paid parking system was introduced at the shopping centre in February, revenue gradually dropped by 60 per cent until they were forced to close their ice cream and drinks shop in July because it was no longer viable.
He accused GPT of refusing to provide adequate rent relief when the business was struggling.
When the business was forced to close, GPT refused to adequately compensate them, he alleged.
"We had a $150,000 business, which is worth nothing to us now," he said.
The National Federation of Independent Business has taken up the Hodgins' case, lobbying politicians to make GPT pay adequate compensation.
The federation's president John Farrell accused GPT of "white-collar crime" and "hammering the Hodgins".
He said GPT was expanding Charlestown Square knowing that "a certain number of retailers will simply go down the gurgler".
He claimed GPT had breached the Trade Practices Act by introducing "tenancy mixes which are totally unviable for the retailers, virtually driving them out of business".
"Big malls like Charlestown Square are feeding off the assets of small business families," he said.
"This is not about market forces or risk and reward, it's deliberate destruction of small businesses."
Solicitor Phillip Biber said he was preparing to take legal action against GPT on behalf of three Charlestown Square retailers, fashion boutique Parizz, delicatessen Let's Eat and beautician Professional Nails.
Mr Biber claimed GPT failed to disclose its redevelopment plans to the retailers when they were renegotiating new leases.
He claimed construction work and the new paid parking system were factors in the retailers' revenue dropping 30 to 40 per cent. He alleged GPT knew when redevelopment work started that retailers would be "virtually valueless" because customer numbers would drop.
WHAT GPT SAID
GPT has a lease with New Zealand Natural Pty Ltd with whom it shares regular and open dialogue as part of the mediation process
GPT treats all tenants fairly and reasonably and, during the development of Charlestown, if a tenant has been affected GPT has provided appropriate rental assistance and marketing support.
Details of the development were appropriately disclosed to all retailers.
GPT has not been approached by the NFIB [National Federation of Independent Business].
NFIB's claims are totally incorrect and without any factual basis.