One by one, major retailers are toppling like dominoes into voluntary administration - Harris Scarfe, Jeanswest, Colette, Ishka - each leaving bleak statements about the viability of Australian retail in their wake.
Along Albury's Dean Street, the retail centre of the Twin Cities, things look equally shaky with 26 office and shopfront spaces currently listed for lease.
But Border experts, retailers and real estate agents are divided on the state of the market and future of retail.
Australian Industry Group's Tim Farrah said the last time he can remember this many vacancies on Dean Street was during the "recession we had to have" in the 1990s.
"I think it's been that long since we've seen it like this," he said.
"There have been other short-term situations where it's been a bit empty in Dean Street but it bounced back quite quickly."
Mr Farrah said as an industry, retail was extremely resilient but online shopping has completely disrupted the traditional retail market.
On top of that, importing stock was becoming increasingly difficult because of coronvairus lock downs, and in general people were spending less.
"It's a pretty volatile time at moment with a range different factors creating a perfect storm for retail," he said.
"[Vacancies] are a very telling factor. Dean Street is one of strongest retail strips in regional Australia. The fact there are so many vacancies is a real sign the economy is weak, because retail is one of first visible signs of an economy softening."
But Border real estate agents have downplayed the significance of vacancies.
Stanley and Martin's commercial leasing and management agent Catherine Trinnick said there was still significant interest and strong demand for CBD spaces.
"There's always turnover in terms of commercial space, in particular retail at the present time, but we're in negotiations with a number of parties for some of those spaces and they're newer retailers coming to Albury," she said.
"So it doesn't concern me."
Andrew Dixon, from LJ Colquhoun Dixon, said Dean Street vacancies might be a bit higher than usual but there was no reason to panic.
"There's a few more vacancies than normal, that's probably a legacy of the retail environment nationally," he said.
"But there is still certainly a lot of businesses in Dean Street that are doing very well and we're certainly still getting good tenant inquiries from businesses wanting to relocate within Albury or establish from scratch."
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Mr Dixon said the demand for brick and mortar shopfronts in Albury and Wodonga remained strong.
"There were a large number of vacancies in Wodonga a few years ago but they have been absorbed even though the Woolworths development and Coles development are filling," he said.
"Dean Street is one of the most prosperous streets in regional Australia and I think it will continue to be, at this time there's a couple of vacancies but they will fill up."
Andree Becker, of Becker's Newsagency, recently moved the business further down Dean Street to a smaller space.
She said the retail landscape, and Dean Street, had changed immensely since they took over the business more than 25 years ago. Mrs Becker said the introduction of major chains like Officeworks and the rise of online shopping, publications and lottery, had changed the way people shop.
"There have been empty shops before though I'm certain it's the online shopping that's done it," Mrs Becker said. "Energy and everything costs a lot more and the turnover isn't the same as it used to be.
"There's no loyalty left in shopping anymore, we're just after convenience.
"We're still doing quite well and we still love it, the times have just changed."
Mrs Becker said to stay successful they have diversified their business.
Mr Farrah said wages had barely kept up with inflation over the past decade and the stagnant wage growth meant everyday residents were struggling to cover rising expenses, leading to a drop in spending.
"The disposable income is just not there anymore," Mr Farrah said.
Online shopping too has only continued to grow as it ironed out early kinks.
"Ten years ago people were still nervous about putting their credit card details into the computer but these days most people don't think twice," he said.
"Online shopping has really come into its own in the last five years."
Just as most retailers were coming to terms with the impact online shopping could have on their business, Albury's Barry Young decided to open a bricks and mortar store.
Mr Young, who owns Essential Ingredient in Dean Street and is deputy chair of the Albury Northside Chamber of Commerce, said a few people raised their eyebrows when he opened his shop almost five years ago, just as online shopping was becoming a major disruption to the industry. But, he said, his business was proof there was still a strong market for physical stores.
"It's about providing a point of difference," Mr Young said.
"If you just had a store full of commodity that you could easily source online, that was mass produced and mass marketed then you wouldn't survive. Bricks and mortar don't really have any chance of competing with online [on price] because of overheads.
"So if you can't offer an experience or you can't offer customers something different when they walk in then you're going to struggle."
Mr Young believes this is why major chains are struggling to stay relevant and viable in the current climate.
He said his store attracts "aspirational" customers who want quality, expert advice and the experience of touching items that weren't mass produced.
"I think the big floor-spaced, mass merchandised retailers are really going to struggle but the smaller boutique experience-based retailers will thrive ," he said.
There's no loyalty left in shopping anymore we're just after convenience.Andree Becker
"There's some suggestion nationally that's the case and that the growth in retail is coming from that sort of sector; the boutique offers."
Business NSW's Andrew Cottrill agrees. He said major retailers often had presences across many regional and metropolitan centres and recent closures suggest it wasn't sustainable.
"Evidenced by the recent business chains going into administration I'd say there are some flaws in their business model," he said.
"Regional businesses have the tactical capacity to change quickly, adapt quickly and quickly address any issues or open up new markets, that's much harder for a chain or franchise store."
Mr Cottrill said the border business community was resilient but there was a cash drought in the region currently, in part due to the bushfires and ongoing dry conditions.
"Longer term, drought certainly removes a lot of cash flow from the region's economy," he said.
"We're seeing quite a downturn in revenue and profits and that certainly impacts [businesses'] plans for capital spending and employment."
Mr Young said although retail was undergoing many changes, it was simplistic to say that's the sole reason behind Dean Street vacancies.
He said some landlords price their properties too high and don't budge because they feared devaluing their investments.
"It's a bit mixed, in some respects some of the vacancies have quite a good story behind them," he said. "For example the Globe corner, that whole corner is vacant at the moment which is a terrible look but it's not long changed hands and the owner is spending a lot of money to renovate it... it's positive because he sees the potential of investing in Albury CBD.
"[Sometimes] landlords aren't exactly on top of maintenance... so shops sits vacant due to landlord inactivity and them not willing to spend a bit of money to bring it up to standard."
Mr Cottrill said the rental market was predicated on demand and landlords do need to consider their prices.
"The expectations of landlords is perhaps a bit high," he said.
"We've seen a trend recently in commercial businesses moving into residential properties and converting residential properties... in and around the CBD to try and save money."