Why would supermarket chain Countdown shut a store in the fast-growing west Auckland area not far from where global giant Costco will open up in 2021?
That's the question being raised by locals at Massey's Royal Heights, perplexed about why their local supermarket will vanish early next year and why surrounding shops have shut.
"Unfortunately we've made the tough decision not to renew our lease at Countdown Massey which is up this year and are planning to close the store in early 2020," a spokesperson for the chain said.
"We know this news is upsetting for our team and also for our loyal Massey customers. All our team will be offered ongoing employment with Countdown in another store and we're working closely with them to talk through these options so they can continue their careers with us," the spokesperson said.
Auckland had changed since the small-format store opened.
"We now have stores in Northwest and Westgate, as well as our other West Auckland stores such as Hobsonville, Lincoln Road, Te Atatu and Te Atatu South. At the heart of this decision is our long-term commitment to making sure we have fantastic Countdown stores in the right places for our customers," the statement said.
Countdown said it was looking forward to welcoming customers for the rest of this year and thanked them for their ongoing support and loyalty over the years.
Roy Rudolph, Royal Heights Shopping Centre property manager, said that last month a new business had bought the supermarket and surrounding shops.
On June 22, Fabulous Group bought 138-144 Royal Rd and 41 Widmore Dr, which makes up the centre, Rudolph said.
Fabulous was part of the New Wing Group of companies owned by the Chung family "and have been in New Zealand for over 20 years and also own a number of other shopping centres and other commercial properties in the Auckland region," he said.
The new owners were passive investors but also long-term holders of property, he said.
"They were attracted to the Royal Heights Shopping Centre as they can visualise the potential of creating a stable base of existing tenants by offering them security of tenure as well as add value to their investment as well as the current shops in operation by introducing some new tenants including but not limited to a café, childcare centre, gymnasium and perhaps a children's play centre. This will have the result of increasing visits, especially by local residents, to the shopping centre which will, in turn, be to the benefit of all," Rudolph said.
Fabulous had already commissioned concepts and plans from architects.
New landscaping, neatened shop facades, walkways and accessways were planned, he said.
The Countdown was 2418sq m and Fabulous might spend about $1.7m on the childcare centre. Around $500,000 might be spent on a cafe and other improvements, he said.
Although Countdown had not renewed its lease on 41 Widmore Dr, Fabulous was committed to keeping a supermarket on the site and "accessing the various options that are possible. The new owners are confident that they will secure a new long term lease with a supermarket operator," Rudolph said.
Fabulous would keep people informed and planned to make the centre a better place for shoppers, Rudolph said.