SYDNEY (AFP) - The elegant streets of Sydney's Paddington are where the city's rich and fashionable gather to shop, dine and socialise. But despite Australia's unprecedented economic boom, business has never been so bad. "This is the worst season I've had," says 15-year retail veteran Helen Haines, adding that Australians' shopping habits were out of step with the national economic surge, with impulse shoppers increasingly rare. Haines's boutique, the classy but eerily quiet women's store Luby's Angel, has its regulars but the days of passersby stopping in on their way to get groceries and leaving with armfuls of clothes are over. "It's a lot harder because people are being careful," store manager Alex Couzens told AFP, saying most boutiques in the area were suffering as shoppers face rising prices for essentials such as electricity and housing. "People are really honest about it. They are becoming a lot more comfortable in saying 'We're struggling'." Australia's economy was dubbed the "Wonder from Down Under" when it excelled even as the global economic crisis hobbled most countries, with exports of iron ore and other minerals producing enviable growth and trade figures. But experts now talk of a two-speed economy, with retail being left behind the resources sector. While mining companies are making record profits, shops are closing their doors as absent consumers mind their wallets. Big mineral demand from Asia meant that although this summer's floods and cyclones devastated mines and crops, Canberra expects growth of 2.25 percent for the year to June, with projects worth Aus$430 billion (US$460 billion) on the horizon, mostly in mining. But the outlook is radically different for those without a connection to the resources sector -- retail sales and consumer sentiment are plunging as Australians nervously eye debt crises in Europe and the United States. Overshadowing all is a fear about the health of the global economy after confidence was shattered during the global downturn, possibly resulting in altered consumer behaviour, said ANZ economist Riki Polygenis. "While lots of households took quite a bit of a hit to wealth during the global financial crisis in terms of equity falling, even if some of that wealth has returned, it may have led to a change in behaviour," she said. Consumer sentiment declined in July at a rate normally seen during times of economic shock and Australians have seen a swath of high-profile stores close recently, including bookshops, restaurants and fashion labels. The demand for iron ore, coal and gas, which has supported Australia's export trade, has contributed to seven interest rate hikes since October 2009, leaving most Australians with higher mortgages and rents and less disposable income.