By Karen Bao The Fremantle commercial sector has hit its worst slump in two years as many shops struggle to remain profitable. Many retail owners are shutting down their businesses or offering them for sale at low prices, just to get out of Fremantle. “We’ve been struggling to pay our bills with sluggish sales,” said Jennifer Ralph, the owner of Chicken Treat Fremantle.“Business has been going downhill for most of us. “Shops are closing down because people don’t come to Fremantle anymore,” she added. “The way people shop has changed and it’s not only Fremantle facing this crisis at the moment, but retail in general around the world,” said Jason Cunningham, communication coordinator at Fremantle Council. “With big shopping malls like Garden City and the Hay Street Mall, people tend to enjoy their shopping there rather than Fremantle,” he said. There are infrastructure problems faced by many retail owners, including a lack of parking and an increase in the cost of commercial leases. While Fremantle Council has no control over the lease costs, it is implementing new development strategies to overcome the situation. “We are building a new Hilton Hotel in Fremantle and a new shopping mall in King Square where the old Myer was,” said Mr Cunningham. The Council hopes this new infrastructure will help produce new business opportunities by bringing more people to the port city. The Fremantle Business Improvement District initiative (BID) was introduced to help revive business conditions. Local businesses will be given the power and resources to help improve their viability. The Fremantle Council says it’s also actively involved in generating new ideas and strategies to help sustain Fremantle’s businesses in the long run.