After earning a rapacious reputation during Australia's long boom, retail landlords are slowly coming to their senses, learning from the disaster of the British retail collapse and doing quiet deals with troubled tenants.

The choice between reduced rent and a shop being empty for a year or two should be a no-brainer, but the long golden summer of Australia's economic good times dulled the mental agility of some members of the landlord class. In Britain, the boom caused full frontal lobotomies.

Today's official retail sales numbers only tell part of the story of reduced profitability that's being acutely felt in some sectors and regions. And what's sometimes overlooked by commentators outside the retail sector is the impact on the bottom line of the marginal sale when fixed costs are such a large part of the business.

The Age