Property editor of the NZ Herald

Lindsay Rowles - Nice place to go shopping for a job

Busy property scene attracts Australian retail specialist, reports Anne Gibson.

An Australian who has built Woolworths and Aldi supermarkets has taken the lead developing new stores and refurbishing and replacing shops for this country's largest supermarket chain.

Lindsay Rowles is the new Foodstuffs North Island property development general manager.

In Australia, he was involved in developing about 20 Woolworths stores worth some A$400 million and 15 Aldi outlets worth about A$150 million.

"But there were many people involved in those projects and one of them spanned a 20-year period," says Melbourne-born Rowles, son of an electrician.

"New Zealanders seem to be a little surprised at somebody trekking across and there's a perception of 'why would you do this?' It's hard to find a challenge in a corporate environment and this offers that," he says of his new role in this country, overseeing development and refurbishment of a portfolio whose brands include New World, Pak'nSave, Gilmores and Four Square.

"The challenge is taking a 94-year-old business and supporting that to make property respond to the customer for the benefit of the business," says the Auckland inner-city dweller whose local supermarket is New World Victoria Park.

"It's a really active retail property development space. There is a lot going on. The Australian retail property market is a mature market compared to here.

"My passion is retail development so in a less mature market, there are simply a lot more opportunities.

"Retail growth is what I enjoy and New Zealand - a country that is well regulated with lots of opportunity for growth - seemed like an obvious choice. It doesn't hurt that the lifestyle here is not dissimilar to Australia, there is a similar work culture, people work hard but there seems to be a higher level of respect."

Rowles has a busy time ahead, taking over two new store development projects and a big refurbishment programme.

His biggest project is in Napier: the $30 million replacement of a Pak'nSave at Tamatea, scheduled for completion at the end of this year.

The new $13 million Pak'nSave in Tauranga's Tauriko is due to open in the third quarter of this year. A Foodstuffs spokeswoman said that new store was partly a response to migration to Tauranga, which has been high thanks to Auckland house prices.

On May 26, Foodstuffs lodged resource consent for the redevelopment of New World Papatoetoe.

[New Zealand] is a really active retail property development space. There is a lot going on.

"We have gone unconditional to purchase the existing New World store from Auckland Council and we hope to start the development in the second quarter of next year," the spokeswoman said.

New World Te Kuiti is a $15 million development replacing an existing New World store, more than 50 years old. That is scheduled to open in this year's fourth quarter.

The $25 million New World Papakura development is replacing the old New World across the road, which opened in 1982. That job is scheduled for completion early next year.

Rowles will also head a big supermarket upgrade programme.

The $13 million upgrade of New World Orewa is due to be completed this year, while New World Clendon is being converted into a Pak'nSave, as part of a $25 million expansion.

"We have a resource consent and have commenced work. The project will be completed at the end of next year," the spokeswoman said.

Many smaller projects are also under way, such as redevelopment of New World Willis St, which is nearly complete, the upgrade of New World Pioneer Highway Palmerston North, now complete, and New World Pahiatua, which has had seismic strengthening and was upgraded, with work due to complete in the next month. The projects vary in value, but are in the $2 million to $5 million range.

Neither Rowles nor the spokeswoman would say precisely who pays for these big investments, except that the costs are split between the Foodstuffs co-operative, and the individual manager.

Lindsay Rowles

Age: 41

Position: Foodstuffs North Island property development general manager

Based: At Foodstuffs' Auckland HQ, Roma Rd, Mt Roskill

Born: Melbourne

Education: Deakin University

Qualifications: Bachelor of Law, Bachelor of Commerce

- NZ Herald

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