Australian pharmacy giant Chemist Warehouse is continuing its store expansion in New Zealand, with its eyes set on between 50 and 70 stores in this country.
The discount pharmacy retailer which has over 300 stores throughout Australia and New Zealand and estimated to be worth AU$5 billion ($5.5b) is gearing up to open one of its largest stores in New Zealand this year.
Construction for a 800 sq m store is under way at 155 Queen St, on the corner of Queen and Wyndham St, in Auckland CBD. It will be the retailer's first inner city store.
Chemist Warehouse director Azman Haroon said the store would be one of the company's largest in New Zealand when it opens, and attract tourist and city office worker catchments. A date for the store opening is not yet known.
"The city centre is an amazing place for shoppers and [Queen St] seems to be one of the key landmark streets in New Zealand, so we wanted to make sure that we had a very good offering there," Haroon said, adding that it took "a while" to find "the right site" for its first city centre store.
"We wanted to make sure that we had one of our best [types of] stores in that area."
The CBD Chemist Warehouse store would be bigger than its large format stores located in Albany in Auckland's North Shore and in St Lukes.
Chemist Warehouse will also open a store in Westfield Newmarket, next Thursday, when the first stage of the mega-mall owned and operated by ASX-listed Scentre Group opens to the public.
The retailer currently operates eight stores in New Zealand, it plans to have 12 trading by the end of the year. Haroon could not say where the other two stores in the pipeline would be located.
Haroon said Chemist Warehouse wanted to open more stores in Auckland, and other major cities throughout New Zealand.
"We would like to see somewhere between 50 and 70 stores [here], based on our research," he said. "We want to partner with pharmacists and open as many stores as we possibly can."
Chemist Warehouse, which offers free prescriptions, would open stores wherever the consumer wanted the brand, he said.
Heart of the City chief executive Viv Beck said Chemist Warehouse would increase foot traffic and activity on Wyndham St.
"Chemist Warehouse will likely be a popular option for customers, and will bring more choice for our growing city centre community. This will also bring new activity to Wyndham Street, which is a key connection between Queen Street and Albert Street," Beck said.
First Retail Group managing director Chris Wilkinson said Chemist Warehouse's entry into the inner city would force prices down at competing pharmacies in the area.
"The move will almost certainly see neighbouring pharmacies reduce or remove the prescription fee, as has happened in other areas Chemist Warehouse has opened in Auckland," Wilkinson said.
Auckland CBD could accommodate up to three Chemist Warehouse stores, he said.
"I would imagine the downtown area will be next in their sights, particularly as Commercial Bay comes on-stream."