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Wellington shops close by the dozen

Aug 3rd, 2009 | By | Category: Front Page Layout, Latest News, News

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SHOPS along Wellington’s Lambton Quay “golden mile” are emptying at a faster rate than the rise in unemployment, with nearly 7% showing “for lease” signs.

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The trend is similar in Hutt Valley retail centres, with 50 empty shops in the two Hutt cities, and Lower Hutt suffering more than its neighbour.

However, real estate agents working in the commercial field say it’s not as bad as it looks – we’re just not used to seeing vacant premises in our main shopping streets.

Some 17 of the 250 shops in Lambton Quay and Willis St in Wellington City  are empty.

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shop4But Bayleys real estate commercial retail agent Lee Cunningham says while there are “a few vacancies” on Lambton Quay, it is a small percentage of the number of tenanted shops.

“It is just that we are not used to seeing any vacancies there at all,” he says.

“I see the number of vacancies improving in the future.  I base this on the amount of retailer tenant demand we have registered.”

shop5shop6Ray White Commercial agent Dave Grant says the vacancies are mainly towards the north (Beehive) end where there is less foot traffic.

But the area is still in high demand and occupancy will improve.

He says the cost of shop space in Lambton Quay is about $2800 a square metre at the southern (Willis St) and central parts and about $1450 towards the northern end.

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lw-4Lower Hutt is suffering more than Upper Hutt, say agents, with more than 35 vacant shops in Queen St and Main St.

Pelorus Real Estate agent Murray Rodgers says there is a combination of reasons:

•    the extension of Westfield Queensgate;
•    the relocation of shops like Dick Smiths and Pumpkin Patch into the mall;
•    high rent;
•    shops moving from Lower Hutt to Upper Hutt;
•    some outlets being past their prime,
•    lack of confidence to open new shops.

lw-6Mr Rodgers expects rents will fall to a level where people can make money by Christmas.

Ray White Commercial agent Don Wishart says the vacant Lower Hutt buildings could be “a sign of the times” or “the impact of Westfield Queensgate”.

He also believes the occupancy rates in Lower Hutt will get better soon because of a number of improvements being made in High St.

lw-5lw-7He says the mall has fewer vacancies because it is a popular, modern place with undercover car parking.

Cooney Property agent Hui Lim says he has noticed a lot of finance companies closing lately, a trend  Mr Rodgers has noticed, too.

Mr Lim says research shows the occupancy rate in Lower Hutt should improve during the next 12 to 18 months.

The cost of renting a shop in Lower Hutt is around $200-350 per square metre.

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Upper Hutt is faring better, although it still has more than 20 vacant shops, with opinions on the cause varying between agents.

uh-9uh-5McArthur Real Estate’s Mark McArthur believes one is the development of Trentham Mall.

He says some landlords will give rent relief to shops struggling to keep afloat, but believes the number of shop vacancies will be “balancing out some time soon”.

uh-41The cost of renting an average size shop in Upper Hutt (about 100sq m) is around $200-$355 a square metre.

Professionals commercial real estate agent Ron uh-7Vink says the reason for shop vacancies in Upper Hutt is not because of the mall, but because of the economic climate.

He agrees the mall contributed to loss of shops in Main St.

But he also believes shops leading into Upper Hutt have closed because of the economy.

“Occupancy will improve as the economy does.”

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is a Whitireia Journalism graduate who loves writing, computers, cooking reading and creating controversy, something she did frequently during her time at Whitireia.
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2 comments
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  1. I think you also need to look at Council planning decisions in Upper Hutt.
    1.Whay did they let a new Mitre 10 mega complex go ahead across the railway line when it contravenes a report done at a cost of $300,000 which they adopted and recommended that development be concentrated on the main street?
    2.Why did they then go ahead and authorise the development of the South Pacific Tyres Site for retail as well?
    3.Upper Hutt has become a dormetry suburb. People live there but work and shop in other Towns.
    4.Council are not trying to attract businesses to Upper Hutt which will employ people who will live and work locally and thus support and participate in the Upper Hutt community.

  2. Dearest Tory,
    Loved all your Articles! Thoughtful, local news, meaningful to the Local Community,and loved all the photos, made the issue much more real. Well done!!!
    HUGE LOVE,
    Mary xxxxx

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