Auckland CBD's largest new supermarket opened before deadline yesterday after early-morning customers lined up keenly at the doors.
The 2200sq m Countdown Auckland Metro by Woolworth's Progressive Enterprises is at 17-25 Victoria St West, just across Queen St from the Whitcoulls Corner, with its customer entrance beside Brookfields House and a large loading bay behind off Durham Lane.
New Countdown stores in suburban areas are often more than 4000sq m, but the smaller city store is offering 15,000 product lines specially selected for its unusual clientele.
Dave Chambers, Progressive's managing director, said Onecard loyalty system transactions from the Countdown in Quay St revealed important information about product lines and goods most in demand.
That prompted a special range at the new store aimed at inner-city workers, apartment dwellers, tourists and large businesses catering in boardrooms in the area.
So a large bakery near the store entrance offers snacks, wraps, lunches, sushi, sandwiches, rolls and an extensive deli range.
Fresh fruit and vegetables, and large butchery and seafood departments are other features of the store, which cost $7.3 million to complete, a fraction of Countdown's usual suburban spend - closer to $20 million to $30 million for a new-build store.
A property executive said Countdown did not pay the entire $7.3 million for the fit-out, but came to an arrangement with landlord NZX-listed Kermadec Property Fund.
Kermadec says it owns five commercial properties, predominantly in Auckland, with a combined value of $100 million. The core of the portfolio is the $48 million Finance Centre in the CBD.
"Kermadec is focused on increasing its presence in the central Auckland market over time, with a bias towards well-located office and carparking assets," the business said.
An escalator had to be removed and another changed to fit the store into the space once occupied by a bridal store, Servilles Hair Academy Salon and a duty-free shop.
No carparks are offered to customers. Heather Harris, manager resource consents at Auckland Council, said parking was not a consideration in regulatory approval for the new store or any other property in the CBD.
"The supermarket is a permitted activity and does not require a resource consent," she said, although a building consent was required for alterations to the property.
Chambers, a New Zealander running the business here for Australian-headquartered owner Woolworths, has been in the job only six months after taking over from Peter Smith. The business had embarked on a "recovery" operation to upgrade, expand and rebrand stores, he said. The new city store is managed by Andrew Cox.
In the next six to seven years, Australia's Woolworths, which owns Progressive, wants to trump locally owned co-operative Foodstuffs and have 30 to 60 more big-format shops than its rival.
Countdown's next new store openings will be at Rangiora East and then in Palmerston North. Progressive will open its Mt Roskill Countdown later this year, its Mangere store next year and eventually the new Countdown at the former Soho site in Ponsonby.
Foodstuffs is now completing its new Silverdale Pak 'n Save.
SHOP TO EAT
*39 new/replacement supermarkets are under way or planned in New Zealand.
*Progressive Enterprises (Countdown): 21 new/replacement stores.
*Foodstuffs (New World, Pak 'n Save, Four Square, etc): 18 new/replacement stores.
*Auckland Countdown Metro opened in the CBD yesterday.
*New World at 125 Queen St opening around March.