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Auckland retailers jewel in the crown

The waterfront end of Queen St is becoming a magnet for luxury brands



Long term investment with development potential/new-zealand/en-gb/news/916/long-term-investment-with-development-potentialAUCKLANDLong term investment with development potential
Former Fire Station on high profile corner site/new-zealand/en-gb/news/915/former-fire-station-on-high-profile-corner-siteCHRISTCHURCHFormer Fire Station on high profile corner site

HIGH-END retailers are staking out Queen St's waterfront end, a trend one real estate expert predicts will strengthen.

Chris Dibble, research and consulting manager at Jones Lang LaSalle, says the harbour end of Auckland's premier shopping strip has become a magnet for luxury retailers.

Gucci and Louis Vuitton trade side-by-side, joining local jewellery giant Michael Hill in the recently-refurbished 1900s Imperial and Everybody's character buildings.

Clothing specialist Tarocash is leaving premises near the Queen St/Wyndham St intersection and moving to the Customs St/Queen St corner opposite Queen Elizabeth II Square.

That fitout at 22 Queen St has been under way for weeks, replacing Champions of the World, the All Blacks' official store. Champions still has an outlet open on Queen St, almost directly opposite its old premises.

Dibble says Kathmandu will move into Tarocash's old Queen St shop, giving it a Queen St presence beneath its large-format store on level one of 151 Queen St, premises owned by AMP NZ Office Trust, up an elevator off Queen St.

International luxury designer handbags, leather goods and accessories brand, Oroton, has voted confidence in the CBD, securing premises at 31 Vulcan Lane near Cafe Melba.

Oroton was planning to open just off Queen St on August 23 and that offer is in addition to its Newmarket premises at 277 on Broadway.

Dick Smith Electronics' new store in the bottom of 21 Queen St has brought more foot traffic to the area and the shift of big-name retailers to Queen St's waterfront end was further cemented a year ago by the opening up of new retail space at the bottom of the Deloitte Tower at 80 Queen St.

BNZ, an office tenant in the tower, opened an experimental retail banking outlet there abandoning traditional teller-style counters in favour of more open designs, a project their security experts were closely involved in.

Four new international-brand shops have also opened in the building, just one block up Queen St from Gucci and Louis Vuitton.

They opened on October 30 last year to sell mainly top-end high-quality big-brand clothes and shoes. North Face has those items, plus tents, sleeping bags, backpacks and outdoor equipment.

Lacoste moved into the most prominent space on the Queen/Fort St corner. Ben Sherman moved to the Fort/Jean Batten Place corner with a strong British theme including fitting rooms like a gentleman's library. Shoe retailer Rockport is trading from Jean Batten Place and North Face on the Jean Batten Place/Shortland St corner. Its back wall of four changing rooms sports a strong image of Mt Everest climbers.

Espresso business Altezano has opened a cafe in the triple-height entrance foyer to the offices on the Queen/Shortland St corner. True Alliance of Sydney took the head lease over the four new shops which completed Brookfield Multiplex's $200 million development of the 21-level tower which it subsequently sold to interests associated with retailing expert Tim Glasson.

But Queen St has not been a success for everyone. Champions says it shut its prominent Queen St store ``due to circumstances beyond our control, it was the landlord'' and luxury Swedish stationary business, Kikki K, abandoned 105 Queen St a few weeks ago.

In a high-profile evacuation, it plastered its shop front with prompts to visit Kikki K in the suburbs. It has outlets at Newmarket, Westfield St Lukes and Westfield Takapuna.

At the Property Council's retail conference at SkyCity in July, Dibble named ``hot'' sectors as supermarkets, hardware chains, fast-food outlets, IT stores and gyms.

Cafes and restaurants he cited as ``not hot'', with many closing in the downturn and others struggling.

Westfield Downtown remains popular with retailers, with little space in the centre vacant at any time, he says.

"The heart of the city used to be around the Whitcoulls corner. Now, it's lower than that, from Victoria St down.'' However, Dibble says Smith and Caughey's remains a destination shopping experience.

Retail areas in the Canterbury Arcade at 166-174 Queen St have been refurbished and leased after that changed hands from interests associated with the failed St Laurence to Ranchod Group of Companies.

JB Hi-Fi has livened up the Queen St area around The Civic, and if The Edge wins its bid for a $200 million-plus international convention and exhibition centre, St James on Queen St is part of that and the property could be opened up, with retail space in its ground-floor areas.

Jones Lang's Pulse research on Auckland's shopping scene says retailers are becoming increasingly confident that the worst of the downturn was over and some are becoming more active.

"Many retailers suggest that the increase in consumer confidence has not yet reached the till, with recent retail sales data released by Statistics NZ supporting the view that New Zealanders remain budget-conscious.

"Retail vacancy rates typically follow the unemployment rate as the confidence in employment and the resulting wage growth enable consumers more discretionary spending.

"The recent decline in the unemployment rate from 7.1 per cent to 6 per cent in the March 2010 quarter suggests that vacancy rates should start to stabilise and decrease in the short term,'' Jones Lang says.

Anne Gibson