Friday, 9 September 2011

Planting the seed: retail and red tape

It was a sunny summer Saturday when my wife and I first saw our apartment in the Woodson’s Building on Cantonment Street.  I only had to glance at the town hall clock, visible over some rooftops from the living room window, before I knew this was the place for us. 

After we left the building, we strolled around Freo for a while in a kind of dazed stupor – elated that we’d found our first home and simultaneously giddy at the prospect of signing up for a mortgage that spelt the end of my happy fantasy of being able to chuck my job and take off travelling for 12 months if the mood ever grabbed me.

Our backyard

We headed for Market Street, which was bustling.  Kakulas’ window seemed like a portal to a Middle Eastern bazaar – sacks of grains and dried beans open on the floor, the air rich with mysterious spices.  As we made for the train station, we were drawn inexorably into each shop we passed: Lick Clothing, the pretty French kitsch of Store and then Long Macc, oohing and aahing at each new interior.

Of course we’d been up Market Street before (although it was the first time my wife had managed to get me into either Lick or Store), but our new status as almost-homeowners changed things.  It seemed like this was part of our new territory.  We’d seen the house, and now we were inspecting the backyard.  It was ours, and it was beautiful.

Then and now, traders are a big part of what makes Freo special.  That’s why it makes me sad when I hear and see how tough it can be.  And it’s not just those uncontrollable events like the GFC that makes a trader’s life difficult.  In Fremantle, there’s strangulating red tape, anti-social behaviour, parking issues, and the petty, eccentric and downright illogical stifling of innovative ideas and new initiatives.

Moore & Moore

I have in mind a specific example as I write this – Moore & Moore.  Moore & Moore has a special place in my affections, not only because it’s my regular haunt on weekends.  I have a friend who’s the epitome of Melbourne-hipster-cool (in my admittedly inexpert opinion, anyway), and the single time in our years-long friendship that I’ve managed to impress him with my taste in anything was when I took him to Moore & Moore. 

Moore & Moore has had the brakes seriously applied to its ability to hold evening functions by the City, apparently on the back of just a couple of complaints about noise.  Roel Loopers expresses the situation far better than I could on his blog: click here for a refresher.

Moore & Moore is currently being allowed to expand its alfresco area, which is just fantastic – but this ‘giving with one hand and taking away with the other’ behaviour from the City seems bizarre to say the least. 

Clearly, if we’re going to facilitate expansion of the retail and food sectors of Freo, a comprehensive strategy that deals with all the factors that influence a business’s success is needed – not the current ad hoc approach.  The City should be rewarding innovative ideas, and making sure that the bad, lazy, knee-jerk kind of bureaucracy (which is unfortunately rife, especially when it comes to enforcement) doesn’t mean that good, new initiatives will be hamstrung by red tape. 

Once again, this post has become much longer than I intended – but like most things Freo, this is a personal issue for me.  It’s my backyard I’m talking about, after all.


  1. It becomes even more bizarre, Michael, when an alfresco area has been approved by full council, but now that it is ready Moore&Moore need to apply again to be allowed to put tables and chairs on it.

    That is bureaucratic madness in my opinion.

    Roel Loopers

  2. Fremantle Council should be bending over backwards to keep businesses staying in the city, especially these iconic and quaint places.

    I believe a vibrant and prosperous city centre is one of the biggest assets an urban environment can have. It promotes a sense of community and security.

    Facilitating and indeed actively encouraging trading in thoroughfares has been successful for hundreds of years in the northern hemisphere. Some of the initiatives that I have seen help to retain this bustling village feel are:
    • advocating to traders the importance of customer service and retention.
    • employing a place manager who is tasked with facilitating the interaction between regulators, traders and visitors.
    • Council taking pride in its CBD by looking after it really well and making sure the little things that tell people "I care about you being here" are taken into consideration.
    • Having community volunteers or a school/uni group be the primary carer for a inner CBD street or patch.

    I've got two visits to Fremantle today and already I'm worried about how to get to the train station safely after my dinner this evening. At least if I get chased by anyone I hope there's refuge in Cantonement Street!

  3. Michael, not sure from this post that you have read the Fremantle Retail Model Plan?

  4. I certainly have, but what's currently happening with Moore & Moore's alfresco area makes me wonder whether our City bureaucrats have.

    Also, I find it very disappointing that red tape isn't identified in the plan as a key influencing factor to retail success and innovation.  This situation with Moore & Moore shows that it clearly is.

  5. David Engwichts advice to the City was to have a red-tape reduction party.

  6. M&M are in a Fremantle-owned building. The City has made a massive investment in time and resources to contribute to the sustianbaility of an 'iconic and quaint' place, such as Moore and Moore. In fact, you could say that it is entirley their innovation. Additionally, the evidence is there that the City of Fremantle is supporting the innovative deck. The Town of Claremont and the City of Subiaco, as two examples and as far as I'm aware, will not permit any change of use to food without an impossible-car parking test to the development. Fremantle does :)

  7. Re: David Engwicht's red tape reduction party. Lets get the party started.

  8. Yes, it’s great stuff about the decking at Moore & Moore (although it would be better if it wasn’t being held up by red tape: visit the following if you’re not aware of the latest developments: and the bicycle bays.  I want to see more of it! Are there plans to roll it out across the City? Now that would get people talking about Fremantle again.
    Wouldn't it be nice if the Kings Square flexible seating would stay out on weekends as well?
    Re: Subiaco and Claremont. I feel that we're not doing ourselves any favours by comparing Fremantle to places that could be doing things better – I prefer that we aspire to be the best, not congratulate ourselves for not being the worst.
    Thanks for your comment.