Last Farmers quits Queen St

By Ben Irwin, Anne Gibson

Long-standing company's final Auckland CBD department store heads for the suburb.

Farmers' Hobson St branch, original home of the Queen St Santa Claus, closed its doors in 1991.
Farmers' Hobson St branch, original home of the Queen St Santa Claus, closed its doors in 1991.

Farmers has stood proud in Auckland's central city for nearly a century - but the iconic store is about to close its doors for the last time in the CBD.

Aucklanders shopped at the Hobson St store since 1932 but the business more recently moved to Queen St.

That store shuts up shop next month after the long-term lease ends.
Farmers' managing director Rod McDermott said lease arrangements at the property at 230-242 Queen St governed the decision.

"Farmers is closing the store on Queen St because the very long-term lease is at end," he said yesterday.

Staff were yesterday telling customers March 20 was the deadline.

The first CBD Farmers department store opened in Hobson St in 1920 and a year later opened its tearooms and rooftop garden. The building soon became an Auckland landmark in part due to its central role in the city's annual Christmas celebrations. The large Santa Claus - which now sits above Queen St Whitcoulls leading up to Christmas - began life on the Hobson St building.

The Hobson St branch closed in 1991.

Queen St store staff, who said yesterday they were shifting to suburban Farmers stores, were sad to see the CBD store close.

Millie Liang, a Bayleys leasing agent for the store's basement level, said it was a sign of the times.

"I don't think it's viable financially for them - the ground floor has been leased to a clothing brand," she said of a new retailer about to open there.

A home store from Australia might lease the basement but nothing had been decided, she said.

Auckland Mayor Len Brown said it was sad such an iconic Auckland brand was leaving Queen St.

Brown said projects such as the City Rail Link and NDG skyscraper would help attract and keep retail stores in the CBD.

Alex Swney, CEO of Heart of the City - Auckland's city centre business association - was confident Farmers would not be gone for long. "It would seem extraordinary at a time when the central city has never been performing better ... that Farmers wouldn't be back sooner than later."

Ms Liang said the site was attractive to many tenants, with about 25,000 people now living in the CBD, 90,000 workers and 12,000 tourists a day, she said.

Farmers CBD stores
1920 Iconic Hobson St Farmers department store opens.
1921 The building's main tearoom, seating 300 people, opens.
1932 First Queen St store opens.
1991 Farmers' Hobson St store closes when the company moves its operations to suburban shopping areas. Heritage Hotels takes over the site.
2014 Last central city store set to close.

- NZ Herald

© Copyright 2014, APN New Zealand Limited

Assembled by: (static) on red akl_a5 at 16 Sep 2014 16:05:14 Processing Time: 695ms