Auckland retail experts believe major Australian retail department store David Jones might consider the possibility of opening here, after its Wellington move.
Retail leasing experts Paul Keane and John Polkinghorne of Parnell-based consultants RCG predicted the popular large-format store could be here soon.
But in June, David Jones chief executive Ian Nairn said the company was not planning on expanding beyond Wellington within the next few years.
The struggling Kirkcaldie & Stains announced that by February next year, it would shut the big Lambton Quay store.
That follows 152 years in business.
David Jones will pay A$500,000 (NZ$554,930) for the Kirkcaldie & Stains name and to take over the lease on the building. A $20 million refurbishment is due to begin on February 1, transforming the building which will then re-open around the middle of next year.
Polkinghorne said one possibility for David Jones in Auckland was leasing ground and upper level space in Precinct Properties' vast new 38-level Downtown tower, planned for the Lower Albert St/Quay St/Lower Queen St block.
The lower levels of the tower will have space for about 100 shops, including a new laneway to link the area outside the former Chief Post Office through to Lower Albert St.
But Precinct chief executive Scott Pritchard isn't saying which tenants the business is talking to - only that retail rents could top $4000/sq m, making them by far New Zealand's most expensive.
However Pritchard is confident of a 50 per cent tower leasing precommitment before Christmas, so Precinct can push the 'go' button on its $550 million project. Only when the building is half-leased will the project being, Pritchard has said. Fletcher Construction has already won the building contract.
Keane is certain David Jones is eyeing Auckland, despite the Australian retailer rejecting speculation so far.
"What next in New Zealand for David Jones? Regardless of comments from the executive, it is very apparent that the company will have eyed up Auckland as a next step. Property owners in Auckland who have the vision and the space availability in the right location will be licking their lips at the possibility of acquiring this key brand. A long lease with a quality international brand can add volumes to any lease and building valuation. Further, David Jones will want exposure to New Zealand's major city with a large population," Keane wrote in RCG's regular retail update.
Polkinghorne, RCG's economist, backed that up.
"We expect David Jones to come to Auckland due to the population. I think they would love to have a CBD location if they can find one. Their stores in Australia are CBD but they might look at areas like Sylvia Park," Polkinghorne said, adding that was headed to becoming New Zealand's first super-regional shopping centre, so big and forceful that it could draw major new international brands.
Polkinghorne said Precinct's Downtown was extremely suitable for David Jones "subject to rents".
New Zealand's biggest shopping centre is Sylvia Park at 88,000sq m, according to the Property Council/New Zealand Council of Shopping Centres' Shopping Centre Directory 2015, Polkinghorne said.
However that floor space calculation includes the Apex Mega Centre across the Mt Wellington Highway from Sylvia Park, he noted. That mega centre has 16,000sq m so on its own, Sylvia Park is 72,000sq m.
Westfield Albany is listed in the directory as being 53,600sq m, while Westfield Riccarton is listed at 55,000sq m.
Westfield owner Scentre (New Zealand) plans to expand its Westfield St Lukes to just over 77,000sq m, equivalent to about 11 rugby fields.