National retailer The Warehouse told staff yesterday it was shutting its Kaikohe store because it has been unable to negotiate an extension of its lease on the premises and a union says 60 jobs will be lost.
A Warehouse spokeswoman said this morning the big store would shut this winter unlessit can find new premises.
"We had to communicate to the team and say that this stage, this is the only option. We want to continue but in different premises. We are looking into options of finding another site in the town. There may be a pop-up store in the short term," the spokeswoman said.
Regional Development Minister Shane Jones said he was disappointed about the closure because the store was one of the area's biggest employers, along with Ngawha Prison.
Big corporates came and went in the regions, he said, having a huge effect on people's lives. Loss of jobs was a major concern, he said, but there would be no point in talking to The Warehouse about its decision.
Jones said he knew the owner of The Warehouse premises in Kaikohe: "They offered him a two-year lease. He went to his bank. He needed some certainty. The bank said 'you need longer than that'. He went back to the [Warehouse] and said 'I'm not independently wealthy, you're going to screw me and they summarily announced 'we're gone!'
"I'm genuinely surprised they're having to bail out of Kaikohe. With me, it jars," Jones said this morning.
Dennis Maga, general secretary of the 27,000-member First Union, said his organisation was extremely disappointed.
"About 60 jobs will be lost, including part-time," Maga said. "It will be highly unlikely many of these people will be able to find work at other Warehouse stores," he said, citing travel distances in Northland and the company's offer of work at other outlets.
Loyal workers were being laid off, Maga said, and it was unfair.
"These members are not new to the company. They have worked there 10 to 20 years. A lot have been working there all their working lives. They have dedicated their lives to working in that store," Maga said this morning.
"We've heard of other closures too. We feel the direction of The Warehouse will lead to further losses," he said.
The Warehouse and Warehouse Stationery chief executive Pejman Okhovat yesterday emailed Jones about the closure.
He said the decision was "difficult" but without a commercially acceptable lease "we have no choice".
He said they'd been trying to negotiate the lease since last July and said a two-year lease was the landlord's request.
"This was not a planned course of action for us and we desperately want to continue to have a presence in Kaikohe."
"Throughout the negotiations we have tabled a number of options for our landlord to consider in the hope of coming to an amicable solution. We are now at the end of negotiations as we have not been able to secure a commercially acceptable solution, so we have no choice but to close the store."
Staff have been told and some may be able to find jobs at Waipapa and Kaitaia stores, or in other Warehouse Group stores, including Warehouse Stationery and Noel Leeming. They will be supported and given help to write CVs, retrain and apply for jobs.
Okhovat told Jones The Warehouse may also put on a free bus for customers to Waipapa for a while, and set up a "click and collect" pop-up store in Kaikohe.
"The Warehouse enjoys a close relationship with the Kaikohe community and we would like this to continue," Okhovat said.