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UPDATED: Bad for books, good for fashion - Whitcoulls exits Queen St for Farmers to reopen

  • News
  • May 5, 2015
  • Elly Strang
UPDATED: Bad for books, good for fashion - Whitcoulls exits Queen St for Farmers to reopen

Some commenters are saying Farmers will be a welcome addition to Queen St’s quality fashion offering, which has seen Topshop, Prada and Dior open recently.

Centre manager of Heart of The City Tania Loveridge says the decision to bring Farmers back shows confidence in Auckland’s city centre.

“This investment will add to Queen St’s ongoing transformation, bringing a higher quality retail offering to the area and another reason for people to visit the city,” Loveridge says.

 “Whilst Whitcoulls’ departure brings a tinge of sadness, there is something quite charming about Farmers returning to the building that the John Court Department store once occupied for over 60 years.”

James Pascoe Group owns both Whitcoulls and Farmers.

The Santa statue previously sat on top of Hobson St's Farmers store before it became a Queen St icon at Whitcoulls. This picture is a postcard from the 60s. Source: The Lisa Truttman Collection.

Its chief financial officer, Kevin Turner, says the new Farmers store will open on Labour weekend in October.

There will be some activity around its opening, Turner says, but James Pascoe isn’t planning the major event launch that accompanied Topshop’s arrival.

The store will encompass three retail floors and total approximately 2,000 square metres.

It will exclude big-ticket items and whiteware but Turner says it will otherwise feature a full offering of fashion, apparel, lingerie, cosmetics, homewares, manchester and more.

The Whitcoulls flagship occupied its Queen St location for four decades.

It used to be in the company of Borders and Dymocks, but both have closed.

Borders Queen St's closing down sale in 2012. Source: Chris Keall.

Now Unity Books on High St is the last bookshop left standing on the CBD's main retail strip.

Unity High St owner Jo McColl says it’s a sad day for the book trade and for Auckland City.

The businesses had a symbiotic relationship; with each shop recommending the other if it didn’t have a book in stock.

However, McColl says business will no doubt increase; when Dymocks shut down in Wellington, Unity’s Wellington store was immediately far busier.

 “It’ll increase the demand undoubtedly. That’s fine for us, personally, but it’s a terrible thing for the book trade. Publishers wont have an outlet for a large number of books,” she says.

Though bigger bookstores have been closing down nationwide, due to the popularity of online suppliers and eBooks, indie booksellers are holding up the backbone of the industry.

The last bookshop left standing on High St and Queen St. Source: neatplaces.co.nz

McColl says independent bookshops have had the best financial year ever.

“It’s only getting better and better. The idea that books are dying is a beat up by the media,” McColl says.

She says indie booksellers are performing better than the likes of Whitcoulls because its customers are dedicated book readers.

“They always say, ‘I have 20 books sitting beside my bed I haven’t read and I’m still buying more’,” McColl says.

“If you’re a small business, you can adapt to demand very quickly. If a customer comes in and tells me about book, I can have it in two to three days. The big bookstores can never respond immediately. It’s a whole different ball game.”

Whitcoulls still has a store in Auckland’s Downtown Shopping Centre, but the centre will soon be demolished and replaced by a major retail and office development.

There’s no word about from James Pascoe Group about its plans for Whitcoulls once its last Auckland CBD store meets its demise.

UPDATE: This story originally stated that Unity Books High St was the last inner city bookshop left standing. This has since been amended, as the University Bookshop on Alfred St is another book store currently operating within the inner CBD.

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