Mall’s developer still positive after another retailer leaves

Mall’s developer still positive after another retailer leaves

Three major retailers have pulled out of Johnsonville Shopping Centre in the last nine months. However, the mall’s owner, Stride Property Ltd, and Ohariu MP, Greg O’Connor, believe there’s still life in the mall. PHOTO: NICHOLAS POINTON

Max Fashion is the latest major retailer to pull out of Johnsonville Shopping Centre but the developer remains optimistic about the mall’s future.

Four weeks ago, Max joined OPSM and McDonald’s, who vacated the mall late last year, dealing a major blow to the mall and the local community.

A spokesperson from Max said it had been trading at the mall for about 15 years but did not renew their lease this year due to a combination of location and performance.

“We have just opened a new store in the Kapiti Coast. When we looked at our spread of stores [in the Wellington Region] we just felt there was one too many, in what we would call, the immediate CBD area.

“The one that was naturally going to close was Johnsonville; it’s the smallest inner-city store. If the mall were performing very highly then we probably wouldn’t have made that decision, but it’s a combination of factors,” he said.

Stride general manager of shopping centres Roy Stansfield said, “We are always disappointed when a retailer leaves us.

“When a shopping centre is in need of a redevelopment, a refreshing, it is a bit harder to keep all the retailers trading.

In 2009, the centre received resource consent to increase the mall from 10,000 square metres to a two-level 32,000 square metre mall –  just under half the size of New Zealand’s biggest mall Sylvia Park, which has 71,000 square metres of retail space.

However, in January 2017 the initial plans were scaled back to 26,000 square metres.

Stansfield said the change in plans reflect what Stride feels will be best for the community and the area going forward.

“We have a employed a development manager to take charge of the project. The next stage is to get the key major retailers pre-committed.”

Stansfield would not say which retailers have pre-committed yet as the retailers would not want to make that public knowledge yet.

Stansfield said Stride are happy with the progress and initial talks have been “very positive”.

He acknowledged that the company is publicly traded, meaning there are commercial parameters to the decisions the company has to consider.

He said the mall does need to serve the community to be successful. “If we don’t appeal to the community in terms of what we develop, and we don’t look after our customers we will suffer as a result.”

The space that McDonald’s left after they pulled out of Johnsonville Shopping Centre is still yet to be filled. PHOTO: NICHOLAS POINTON

Ohariu MP Greg O’Connor said the feeling he got from locals he has talked to since Max left the mall was one of “resignation”.

“You’d hate for people to think that [the mall] is on its last legs and it’s not worth going [to] because there’s actually still a lot happening there.”

O’Connor stressed how important the mall is to the local community. “It’s the only place where people gather in numbers in the Northern Suburbs. It’s well worth saving, and it needs to be saved.

“With this new tax that’s going on imported goods under $400 GST we can only hope that it’s going to be good for retail, and people will go back and do their shopping in these places and bring back the vibrancy.

Earlier this year, O’Connor met with the majority owner and manager of the mall, Stride Property Ltd.

The appointment of a new development manager left O’Connor feeling “optimistic”.

He said he hopes that the company realises the importance of the mall to locals. “It may be a commercial project to them, but it is so much more to the community.”

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Article by NicholasPointon

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