Port Pirie's Main Road looked like it was ready to be revived with the opening of new, large retail stores like Harvey Norman, but shopper numbers tell a different story.
According to Den Kennedy, one of the owners of Bakersfield shopping complex, businesses are seeing turnover reductions of between 20 and 30 per cent.
"In early 2021, things were getting reasonably back to normal but still down around 20 per cent regionally, and things have been down effectively around that mark for most retail businesses in Port Pirie," he said.
"You have got the situation now where, since December, panic has come to Port Pirie because there are COVID cases here.
"The word on the grapevine is people are too scared to go out, they are getting online deliveries now and basically becoming hermits. And who can blame them?
"Take a look at the streets; they are empty."
Mr Kennedy said Harvey Norman was "brave" for opening up in Pirie since a lack of support was making it hard for businesses to keep operating.
"There was some improvement prior to December in terms of shops in the street being rented, but relative to the total number of empty shops in the CBD, it is a pittance," he said.
"A small amount of business development did happen, but do not confuse that with the Christmas period being vastly different to how it was last year.
"I think there are somewhere between 30 and 40 shops empty in Pirie's CBD, so having two shops open can hardly be called a difference.
"Apart from Harvey Norman, which is a fairly big chain, I do not see anything else happening."
Dianne Wait-Kennedy, the other owner of Bakersfield, said she has been running a shop in the complex for the last three years when it was only meant to be a six-week pop-up.
Business Port Pirie president Mark Hanlon said he expects businesses to perk up again when the current COVID outbreak settles down.
"Currently, with quite a large outbreak throughout the state, people are cautious about going out," he said.
"Pirie has always been a strong retail town simply because it has such a large catchment and looks after a lot of the outlying area.
"Aside from that, I think it is only coincidental that we are seeing smaller businesses pop up, but we are also seeing businesses shut. That is just retail as we know it."