By Bob Dey

Dress-Smart has won resource consent to more than double its factory shop precinct at Onehunga and expects to have the extra 35 shops open for Christmas trading.

The additional 4850 sq m will take the whole Dress-Smart site to 7000 sq m of factory shops and involve putting Paynes Lane, a service lane running parallel to the Onehunga Mall, one level below ground and building over it.

The project will cost about $8 million and has come about through AMP Asset Management's acquisition of half the Dress-Smart operation last October.


"We knew where we wanted to go but this gave us the security to do it," says the group's general manager, Mark Schiele.

The group's Wellington centre, at Tawa, will open in October. Its Christchurch centre opened late last year.

Schiele says extension of the Onehunga centre by lowering the road was not cheap, but meant the whole centre could be integrated, helping both the pedestrian flow and marketing.

Dress-Smart took the young factory shop concept in 1995 to a level not tried by anyone else in New Zealand, although the concept has expanded overseas to the extent that, in the United States, it rates as a property sector in its own right.

In Onehunga, it began with 20 outlets in the former 3 Guys supermarket and some neighbouring stores, added eight outlets a year later and bought three more property titles two years ago for further development across Paynes Lane.

Demolition has been completed for the extension, where 12 outlets had operated temporarily, and the extension will boost the mall to 65 outlets, with a strong fashion focus.

Retailers have to sell at prices at least 30 per cent below those in their regular stores, but Schiele says that does not mean direct competition with their mainstreet outlets or, necessarily, "cheap." It is more often out-of-season clothing and popular designs made up with different materials for the factory stores.

Schiele says many customers initially have been looking for cheap clothing, but after a time "it's value-based return customers seeking brands."

He says the leasing process is still under way for the Onehunga extension, but there should be 10 to 12 international brands available that are new to this country. Many are leading brand companies that supply existing retailers.

The factory outlets have been a significant boost for Onehunga, bringing 1.2 million shoppers a year and $27 million of turnover.