COVID-19 has smashed and changed the nation’s central business districts, but in her laneway gallery there’s nowhere else Sonja Ari would rather be.
- CBD office occupancy rates remain below pre-pandemic levels in all capitals
- More people are working from home a few days a week
- Landlords are offering more generous terms to secure tenants
“I told my partner, ‘We’ve got to go out’,” she says. “We’ve got to be out there and we’ve got to get people to see us.”
Together with artist Adrian Flor, her brand Awen sells locally-designed, Peruvian-influenced streetwear.
Alongside a popular online shop, the pair have just opened their first permanent store – in the heart of Melbourne’s busy Flinders Lane.
“Obviously, when you see it on you, you want to buy it,” Ms Ari says.
“Having a store and people seeing it and coming to chat, to mingle – they love us. So we love them, too.
“Online, it’s different. You see it and (think) ‘Yeah, that looks good’, but you might not buy it.”
Life has not been easy in the central business districts (CBDs) of our biggest cities, almost three years since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Office occupancy rates are still below 2019 levels, overseas tourism is still lower than its peaks and a construction and renovation boom means some areas…