Market retailers doing it hard

By Susan Edmunds

Renovation delays force developers to ease rent burden on Victoria Park stores

Victoria Park Market. Photo / Michael Craig
Victoria Park Market. Photo / Michael Craig

Retailers in revamped Victoria Park Market say they are feeling the pinch as renovation at the historic site drags on.

Construction of new business premises and walkways has just finished after almost two years of work and a bill of more than $20 million. But 20 per cent of the spaces are still not leased and more than half the complex is not yet open.

The site was a refuse station before being turned into a market in 1983. It operated for many years but had become rundown when Victoria Quarter Trust bought it.

The plan had been to redevelop three stages by December last year. But construction has only just finished and many spaces are still to be fitted out. The plan allows for hospitality, retail and office tenancies.

When the Herald on Sunday visited on a weekday afternoon we were the only customers and many shops were shut.

The market's public relations consultant, Paul Blomfield, said 30 per cent of the park has been sold to investors and owner-occupiers for about $26 million.

Eighty per cent of the park was leased but about 20 spaces were left, including spaces sold to investors. Only about half the spaces designated for shops are open. "Few of the premises in (the 'new' part of the market) are open. It will be three to four months before all of the recently leased shops are open. As you would expect, some stores require a lengthy shopfit, and in some cases liquor licences and permits."

Blomfield said the hospitality operators were doing very well.

But many of the shops resemble those that were there in the previous incarnation. A notable exception is high-spec Platinum Sports.

China Melaku, who owns Ethiosales, which sells Rastafarian gifts and clothing, has been in the market for a year after an earlier stint in 2008.

"I'm so depressed," she said. "I thought now it's clean and tidy, maybe it will work out but there aren't many people here yet."

She said she had signed a six-year lease but would be forced out of business if things did not change.

Next door, at Pipe Dreams, which sells legal highs and smoking paraphernalia, the shop attendant said it seemed retailers would prefer to go to malls than take spaces at Victoria Park. "We do get the odd busy day but it's very quiet."

Bevellyn, who declined to give her surname, of The Great New Zealand Shop, said of all her outlets in Auckland, Victoria Park was the worst performing. She said many of the area's restaurants and bars were doing very well, but that was outside the hours that most shops opened.

Warwick Brown, of Buttermilk Cafe, has been in business here eight months. He said the first few were tough but "over the last few months we've been trading well and will be on track to where we need to be".

He said getting the right mix of tenants was vital.

Centre manager Shelley Mitchell said construction had run behind schedule because it was a heritage site. "Every single brick has to be categorised and photographed. It's a very, very big job."

She said the centre would extend the rent-free period for shops that were struggling. She said there was strong inquiry from tenants who may take larger spaces and the car park at the end of the market was also expected to be redeveloped.

- Herald on Sunday

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