Farmers quiet on move rumour

By Rosemary Roberts

Farmers has declined to comment on rumours that the Whangarei store may be moving out of the CBD, a move that would badly impact the retail scene.

The operation is a cornerstone retail business for the centre city, generating a large amount of pedestrian traffic, and the last of several department stores that once operated in the CBD.

The investors who own the Farmers store building recently put the property on the market for sale by tender, closing December 6 unless it sells by private treaty before that date.

Farmers media contact Michelle Barratt did not respond to queries through October about a possible move but a terse message came from chief financial officer Michael Power earlier this week.

He said: "We understand that the building is currently up for sale by the owners. Any matters regarding the lease Farmers has is confidential between Farmers and the owner. "No further comment will be made."

Farmers was originally in a large building near the Bank St intersection but moved to new premises at the rear of this building in 1995.

This two-level stand-alone building fronts on to the Laurie Hall Park carpark and is connected to Bank St by a mall/throughway through the original site. Both buildings are owned by investment groups. The older building is not part of the sale.

Farmers took a 15-year lease on the new building from October 1995 with three further rights of renewal of three years each.

The company has exercised the first of those three-year rights of renewal which takes the operation through until October 2013, when it has the option to renew for a further three years or vacate.

The net annual rental is currently $555,539.

The advertisement for the building mentions "the new Bank St food court redevelopment", previously unannounced. Ross Blomfield of Bayleys Whangarei, who is marketing the property with Sunil Bhana of Bayleys Auckland, confirmed that as a distinct possibility.

He also outlined possible future uses of the site. "With the Farmers lease having a final expiry date of 2019 if the next two rights of renewal are exercised, the property has redevelopment potential in the longer term, including being divided into smaller tenancies."

He said while bulk retail/large format outlets were now located in several fringe locations, specialist brand retailing was the main focus in the central CBD. The Farmers building could give an opportunity to local businesses looking for a spot in the tightly-held CBD retail precinct.

- Northern Advocate

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