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Two months to go: Fears for Lambton Quay when department store exits

Nick James,
Publish Date
Tue, 12 Apr 2022, 10:35am
David Jones Lambton Quay Building. Photo / Mark Mitchell
David Jones Lambton Quay Building. Photo / Mark Mitchell

Two months to go: Fears for Lambton Quay when department store exits

Nick James,
Publish Date
Tue, 12 Apr 2022, 10:35am

Wellington's business community is voicing concern about the hole that will be left on Lambton Quay when David Jones shuts its doors in two months' time. 

The Australian retail giant first expanded into New Zealand in July 2016 with the opening of its Wellington store in the iconic building that once housed Kirkcaldie & Stains. 

It had originally planned to enter the market in Auckland, but due to real estate availability launched in the capital instead. 

The Newmarket store will remain open, but the Wellington store will officially close on June 12. There's still no word on what will take its place. 

Retail NZ Chief Executive Greg Harford said the retailer leaving will be a big change for Wellington's CBD. 

"The departure of David Jones from Lambton Quay is going to have a huge impact on the retail strip down in that part of town." 

Harford said a significant player in the retail market needs to take over the building. 

"It's really important we have a strong retail offering in that David Jones space and indeed around it." 

He said declining numbers of people entering the city could make it difficult to attract a business to take over the site. 

"One of the problems we have seen in central Wellington is that foot traffic is down – it's been down since Covid but it has been declining for a very long time." 

Wellington Mayor Andy Foster said the David Jones building was a key location on Lambton Quay. 

"It's an anchor site for the Golden Mile so having a good drawcard in the building is really, really important." 

Foster said he hoped a new business could utilise the space better than David Jones has. 

"David Jones, while it will be sad to see them go, it never quite met the Wellington market in the way Kirks did over many, many years ... so we hope future businesses will be able to do so" 

Foster has been having conversations with the owner of the building, Robert Jones Holdings Ltd, since it was announced David Jones would be shutting down. 

However, Foster told the Herald he would not go into the details of those conversations. 

Wellington Chamber of Commerce chief executive Simon Arcus said the closure of David Jones without the announcement of a new tenant is another question mark over Lambton Quay and the city. 

"It tells us a bit about the current operating environment for business, accentuated by the impacts of the Omicron outbreak and the current red traffic light restrictions." 

Arcus said it's a particularly difficult time for hospitality and retail businesses. 

"We've still got people staying home and working remotely because we're at red - while the reality is that we can be back in the city safely. 

"Wellington will be back, but we need the confidence to get people back." 

A David Jones spokesperson said they remain committed to New Zealand through their Auckland store and their David Jones online store coming in the second half of 2022. 

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