A year after announcing its New Zealand plans, local property experts say the Swedish furniture giant Ikea has eyed a number of sites around Auckland.
One local property owner said the business showed an interested in a vast, flat site in a rapidly expanding area with excellent motorway access, only a few minutes' drive from the city's CBD.
A multimillionaire Auckland real estate investor told the Herald he knew Ikea had looked at a Mt Wellington site just off the Southern Motorway, across from New Zealand's biggest shopping centre, Sylvia Park.
But Ikea won't respond to the speculation, confirming only that it was still looking into opportunities since announcing its intention to launch in New Zealand on January 11 last year.
"We are currently exploring opportunities in New Zealand and look forward to sharing more information when it's available," a spokesperson said.
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The investor said this month: "In terms of Ikea, since their announcement last year, very little appears to have occurred. I have heard that they missed out on the Turners site adjacent the Mt Wellington off-ramps and we continue to get indications they wish to be south of the city centre."
On September 12 last year, T&G Global Limited - formerly Turners and Growers - said it was selling and leasing back its Mt Wellington site "as the company mobilises for significant growth".
"The 5.8ha Mt Wellington site is being sold to Goodman Property Trust for $65 million as part of the company's strategy to re-direct capital to support the future growth of the Kiwi-based business, which has offices in 13 countries," the business said.
The site is located in the heart of Mt Wellington, bound by the Southern Motorway, and zoned light industry, offering a prime location and investment opportunity for Goodman Property Trust, another NZX listed entity.
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T&G is one of the largest fresh produce companies in New Zealand and one of the largest exporters of apples to the world.
The exporter said it planned to lease back the site up to four years while it looks at options for the future including developing a fit-for-purpose facility where it can better service the needs of customers, growers and its people in the future.
The Herald has previously reported on possible locations for Ikea here: either Westgate at Massey, partly due to Costco opening there but also due to its large land supply, or Drury in South Auckland where Kiwi Property has big development plans.
Chris Wilkinson, managing director at First Retail Group, said South Auckland was just as likely as Westgate.
"We think Ikea will be at Drury to give Kiwi Property the anchor to differentiate it and because of the connections to the Waikato and Bay of Plenty. But there could be a pop-up at Sylvia Park so we think that means Kiwi is close to Ikea and that would put them at Drury," Wilkinson said.
Clive Mackenzie, Kiwi Property chief executive, would not comment on Ikea coming to one of his sites, simply saying: "We talk to everyone in the market all the time."
Campbell Barbour of NZ Retail Property Group, which owns Westgate, said land there would be ideal for such a big store.
"The site is a great location because it's got motorway connections and it's a new metropolitan town centre for Auckland so getting large-scale international activities here like that is an important part of what we're doing, rather than putting them in more stand-alone locations where they are not supported by public transport, infrastructure, other retail activities and services," Barbour said.
On January 11 last year, Ikea boss Jesper Brodin and market leader Will Edwards were in Auckland to announce that Kiwis would get the "full Ikea experience".
A megastore with 7000 products and a restaurant would be in Auckland, though they did not specify where or when it will be built. It will also launch an online shop and has plans for another store outside New Zealand's biggest city.
But they did say Kiwis would have to wait years for that store to be built. In the meantime, it would bring a pop-up shop to give "consumers a taste of what's to come".
The flagship store would be located in Auckland but Brodin said the whole nation would be able to access the products through online delivery. The executives wouldn't confirm where the megastore would be located but said there were "many sites of interest" up for consideration.