According to Colliers, Lambton Quay is now 98.6 percent leased. Dallas says that because requests for retail space on Lambton Quay are outstripping supply, interest in Willis St and other parts of Wellington’s golden mile has been renewed.
The arrival of David Jones has also refreshed interest in Lambton Quay, says Dallas. Wellington mainstay Kirkcaldie & Stains will shut its doors at the end of January, to be replaced by Australian department store David Jones during mid-2016. The process will involve a $20 million makeover.
“Unquestionably David Jones will add further vitality and prestige to New Zealand’s premier retail strip - Lambton Quay,” Dallas says. “Colliers is already receiving requests from Australian retailers seeking space in the ‘David Jones zone’.”
Dallas reports that many Australian retailers refer to Lambton Quay as a ‘Westfield mall without a roof’.
He believes that the increasing Australian influence may mean a move towards annual fixed percentage increases in rent reviews. He also speaks of a trend towards larger retail stores with smart fit-outs as retailers seek to counter online sales, quoting spends of up to to $5,000/m² from those creating “special” shopping experiences.
First Retail Group works for the Wellington City Council on strategies to support the retail sector. Client services manager Lorraine Nicholson agrees that there’s a growing appetite for space in downtown Wellington. She says this has been assisted – but not necessarily driven through – by David Jones’ commitment to the city.
Nicholson says businesses recognise that while David Jones remains unique in the New Zealand marketplace, it will bring shoppers into the city: “We also think it will re-engage shoppers with the CBD, so this is an exciting time ahead.”
Other catalysts for the rising demand in Wellington central include the announcement that Topshop will establish its second branch there, plus other major developments such as the Countdown on Cable Car Lane and Jamie Oliver’s Fresh Italian. Dallas says Melborne-based fashion retailer Seed Heritage has confirmed a new flagship store will open on Lambton Quay next year, and R.M. Williams will open its first New Zealand store nearby.
Nicholson spoke of 'positive churn' occurring along the golden retail mile of Lambton and Willis St. She says many existing retailers have shifted into larger or newer sites to position for anticipated growth in visitation or trade.
She was positive about the number of Australian retailers arriving in central Wellington, but emphasised the need to support Wellington’s independent and artisan retailers – “which we know are treasured by both locals and visitors” – and retain its unique edge.
“The Quay is definitely not a Westfield without a roof and this point had both retailers and property owners a little puzzled,” Nicholson says. “Wellington's unique vibe, where shops, cafes and restaurants blend in a contemporary streetscape is poles apart from a mall environment.
“Indeed, that's what attracts businesses here - and something Jamie Oliver mentioned in a recent TV interview.”
Dallas agrees, citing Wellington’s unique compactness and its stylish fashion retailers, arts and sporting events, café culture and inner-city living as part of the attraction of its vibrant CBD.
Offshore retailers arriving in Wellington:
New Wellington retail stores or initiatives
New stores based in Petone