Anne Gibson

Property editor of the NZ Herald

Countdowns sprout in Auckland's northwest

Expansion plans in Westgate development are just part of supermarket giant’s ambitions in New Zealand.

Adrian Walker says having two Countdowns  in close proximity at Westgate works because different shoppers make different choices. Photo / Richard Robinson
Adrian Walker says having two Countdowns in close proximity at Westgate works because different shoppers make different choices. Photo / Richard Robinson

At Westgate, two Countdown supermarkets will soon stand just 500m or so apart - one of the best indicators, says Progressive Enterprises property general manager Adrian Walker, of growth and demand for new stores throughout New Zealand.

A Countdown has operated from Westgate's existing bulk retail area since the 1990s but Walker says DNZ Property Group is to develop a new store in a mall in the expanding retail zone just across the road.

"Both will be the same, almost mirror images of each other," Walker said, standing on Hobsonville's Clarkes Lane, where earthworks are also under way for a big new Countdown just a few kilometres from the hub in northwest Auckland.

New Westgate and Hobsonville projects are on land which was once on Auckland's outskirts - rural sites, like at Beachlands to the southeast where a Countdown is also planned.

As for the proximity of the two Countdowns at Westgate, Walker says different shoppers make different choices. "Some people will like to go and shop in the bulk retail or older area and some in the new mall. This area out west is under-serviced by retail in grocery and there's 60 per cent leakage in the western zone - that means people go out of the area, maybe to where they work.

"They're having to go back to Lincoln Rd at Henderson or to Albany."

And for Countdown, that means delivering customers into the enemy's hands: rival Foodstuffs controls Albany with its Pak'n Save and a New World and not a Countdown in sight, despite Progressive's promises last year to build there.

Australian-owned Progressive will open 14 new stores over two financial years to next June, as well as many new Fresh Choice and Supervalue outlets, Walker says. Each new store is about $20 million but Progressive owns only about 20 of its 170, leasing the rest.

But during last decade's financial crisis when developers went under, Progressive was forced to buy land and develop.

Countdown Hobsonville is to be 3850sq m, "slightly smaller than the Countdown at Westgate", and will have 300 carparks, all in the middle of the traditional town opposite the hall and across the road from Hobsonville War Memorial Park.

As well, an extra 2000sq m or 18 separate shops will be developed on the site, but not by Progressive. A Wanaka-based investor owns the land and is developing the buildings, including the supermarket which Countdown will lease after Progressive sold him the site.

Those plans went to the Environment Court because a plan change was needed: rural land was rezoned commercial, with some residential alongside where 90 housing lots are to be created. Supermarket entranceways will be off Hobsonville Rd and Clarkes Lane, Walker says.

"The bulk of customers will come from Hobsonville Point and all the way back towards Westgate," Walker said, indicating a 2.5km to 3km radius.

Some locals fear the supermarket will ruin local businesses, particularly those dealing with fruit and vegetables from the farm gate.

"Obviously, we'll provide some competition to the local businesses. We'll be able to sell a lot more than green produce. What is sold in the local area is only a small range of produce. The closest supermarket is at Westgate, about 5km away."

But Countdown's ride is not all smooth. The Commerce Commission is formally investigating claims of its anti-competitive behaviour towards suppliers. The investigation will involve seeking a wide range of information from a variety of sources, including organisations from all areas of the supermarket sector, and is expected to take several months.

At Beachlands, locals fought Progressive's plans: the Pohutukawa Coast Community Association tried, but failed, to stop the Countdown and creation of a new commercial hub.

Progressive sees New Zealand as a huge growth market. In 2009 it committed to spending $1 billion over five years and Walker says areas such as the Wynyard Quarter are of interest. "The population is growing and we also provide new stores in localities where the consumer doesn't have choice," he says.

Countdown's first Auckland CBD supermarket on Victoria St was far more successful than envisaged but expansion was limited, one of the few options being to go up a level to offer more products. Walker says that was rejected.

How we shop: Kiwis at the supermarket

*New Zealanders visit a supermarket 2.5 times/week.
*On average, we are spending around $40/visit to Countdown supermarkets, owned by Woolworths.
*Rival Foodstuffs is two regional NZ-owned co-operatives.
*Foodstuffs has 137 New Worlds, 50 Pak 'n Saves, 273 Four Squares, three Write Price stores, two Shoprite stores, 117 On the Spot Convenience stores, 20 On the Spot Express stores, 78 Liquorlands, 19 Henry's Beer Wines and Spirits stores, 4 Raeward Fresh stores, 4 Trents Wholesale, 8 Gilmours, and 4 Toops Wholesale.
*Foodstuffs had annual sales of $8.6 billion last year.
*Countdown's are running at an annualised $5.6 billion.

Countdown spread (new stores)
*July 1, 2013-June 30, 2014
Lincoln Rd, Henderson.
Amberley near Christchurch.
Ferrymead, Christchurch.
St Johns, Auckland.
Whitianga, Coromandel.
Kensington, Whangarei.
Churchill Drive, Wellington.

*July 1, 2014-June 30, 2015
Hobsonville, northwest Auckland.
Dargaville.
Bureta Park, Tauranga.
Hauraki Corner near Takapuna.
Orewa.
Vogeltown, New Plymouth.
Frankton Flats, Queenstown.

[Source: Adrian Walker, Progressive Enterprises]

- NZ Herald

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