Retailers fume over mall's rent stance

By Nikki Preston

Several long-term tenants are leaving the mall. Picture / Christine Cornege
Several long-term tenants are leaving the mall. Picture / Christine Cornege

Disgruntled tenants say Westfield Chartwell in Hamilton is not showing loyalty to local long-term shops by replacing them with out-of-towners and offering cut-price rents.

Ming Express will close on Sunday after 10 years and Pronto Pasta leaves the food court the next week after six years. Their departures follow that of Hallensteins, Mondo Travel and Stirling Sports in the past few months.

Five of the mall's retailers, who would not be named for fear of repercussions, said they were struggling with annual rent increases imposed by Westfield despite tough trading conditions.

Several food retailers are about to have six-year lease agreements expire and were upset they were not being given the first option to renew.

Westfield New Zealand shopping centre general manager Linda Trainer said when a store lease was due to expire Westfield did not have to give the tenant the first option and could either enter into new negotiations with the existing tenant or could negotiate with the market.

She said rent reviews were done annually in line with the consumers price index but management did work with individual retailers to take into account their circumstances.

The Herald understands existing food-court tenants pay a $13,000 monthly base fee, and retailers pay $10,000 for an 80sq m retail shop.

One tenant asked why they didn't just reduce the rates for current tenants. "How can they do this? They come to us and say the lease is ending, I want you to go."

She said it was hard for owners who invested between $200,000 and $400,000 in buying their businesses to relocate.

Another said it was heartbreaking to be putting in 12-hour days, seven days a week only to be forced out.

A retailer wrote to the Herald raising concerns about how Westfield was behaving and said it had "no regard for local people and the small businesses that locals run to support their families" as it continued to impose annual rent rises in tough times.

"We have had our lives torn at the seams due to Westfield's unrelenting greed and an attitude that is completely out of sync within a tough Hamilton retail market."

- NZ Herald

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