Big international fashion retailers not yet selling in New Zealand are being eyed for Auckland, after an Asian-headquartered fund bought a North Shore mall for $83.5 million. Kevin Yeow, Asia Pacific head of asset management for Aviva Investors, visited from Singapore for a rebranding launch last week and said fashion and shoe brands might consider Takapuna's Shore City, the sale of which by Westfield New Zealand was announced in July.
He cited Pedro Shoes with stores in countries including Cambodia, Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, United Arab Emirates and Vietnam, and also mentioned fashion chain bYSI, which has 43 stores in eight countries.
Yeow wanted to give an idea of the style and size of business looking to expand in New Zealand.
"We're talking to a few," he said, citing fashion chain Charles & Keith as another possibility.
From its 1996 beginnings in a 46sq m store in Amara Shopping Centre Singapore, Charles & Keith has grown to cover many countries including China, Egypt, India and South Africa.
The 14,139sq m Takapuna mall held by Aviva Investors' Asia Pacific Property Fund has only one vacant shop and historically low tenant turnover.
A spokesperson for Colliers International, appointed by Aviva as managers, said changes were under way. "We're in the process of finalising new lease arrangements with the centre's brands and aim to retain them for the long term.
"As other leases expire, we will endeavour to strengthen the mix by bringing in more national and international brands," she said. "This will happen in line with the results of the extensive community consultation which was done after Aviva Investors purchased the mall.
"Feedback we received from shoppers on what they wanted has strongly informed our leasing strategy."
Yeow said fashion brands, selling items in the mid-range price brackets, could fit well in the centre which was already strong on fashion.
"Some of them want to expand but they need to see whether it's the right target or market for their companies," Yeow said.
The Colliers spokesperson said Paul Tanday and Jarrod Reilly of Colliers were managing Shore City and after Aviva's purchase, research was undertaken.
Consumers, Shore City retailers, Auckland Council and the Takapuna Beach Business Association were questioned about their views on the centre and a competitor review was conducted.
Jan Walker had been the centre manager for 18 months under Westfield ownership and had been with Westfield in other roles for more than 10 years.
Walker was keen to stay on with the new owner and had done so, the spokesperson said.
Lynley McCormick had also stayed on as marketing manager. "So there is full continuity of senior management at the centre," she said. "There are nine centre staff employed in total in various roles such as management and customer services."
Yeow said the same fund which owned the Takapuna property also had two Sydney office blocks and it might buy assets in Japan, Singapore, Australia, New Zealand, Malaysia and Indonesia.
"Up to now, we still don't have anything in Hong Kong. It's too expensive," he said of the fund, which has a mandate to buy retail, commercial, industrial and logistics properties.
Andrew Reed, of Colliers International sales, said Aviva's purchase was the biggest commercial property asset sale in Auckland in nearly a year, and illustrated the increased interest in New Zealand property among offshore institutional investors seeking global diversification.
Aviva Investors Asia Pacific Property Fund
*Launched September 2008.
*Properties in NZ, Japan and Australia.
*Valued at $623m-plus
*Paid $83.5m for Shore City, Takapuna.
*Purchase marked entree to New Zealand.
*Shore City shopping mall, NZ.
*Alinta Plaza office block, Perth.
*Olderfleet Building, Melbourne.
*Sussex St office block, Sydney.
*Shin Yamashita, Greater Tokyo.
Source Aviva Investors