Asian retailing is booming in the CBD

By Sunny Liu

Asian hospitality operators and retailers are signing significant leasing deals at prominent CBD locations with strong market demand from students.

CBRE’s retail services team has signed leases with Asian retail and hospitality operators who are paying rents as high as $400,000 each year around Chinatown, the northern end of Elizabeth St and A’Beckett St.

Industry experts say the continuous influx of Asian students into the CBD is driving retail activity in CBD’s north.

“Five years ago the only attraction was the Queen Victoria Market, now business in this northern-end of the CBD is thriving off the strong student population and spending”, Zelman Ainsworth, CBRE’s retail associate director, said.

“Landlords are now in a position to attract the top tenants who can pay premium rents for spaces in this tightly-held pocket,” he said.

As revealed in the latest census data, almost 40 per cent of CBD residents identify their ancestry as Chinese and 26 per cent were born in China.

CBRE’s Ting Ting Gao said more Asian students living in the CBD had increased the demand for more amenities and retail offering from Chinese retailers.

“The CBRE Chinatown Service Centre has seen an exponential growth of enquiries from Chinese hospitality operators looking to expand their business within the Chinatown and RMIT precinct over the past six months,” she said.

“As many as 20,000 residential dwellings are currently under construction and a further 19,000 dwellings have been approved to accommodate this growth.”

One of the most popular retail destinations is Target Centre in Chinatown, which is also home to Monash College.

CBRE reports that Asian retailers such as Li Ji Ma Hot Pot and Royal Tea are paying premium rental for an arcade tenancy at Target Centre to cater for international students.

Catherine Gomes, Associate Professor in Asian studies at RMIT, said the CBD was experiencing a “cultural shift” where Asian cuisine was gaining popularity among both newcomers and Australians.

“The Australian society is quite accepting of new food coming in and dishes like Asian stir-fry have become everyday food. It’s part of the cultural shift and food is part of it,” she said.

“The phenomenon of Asian shops popping around the CBD is a sign of migration."

"Businesses cater to the culinary needs of international students,” Assoc Prof Gomes said.

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