Discount pharmacies vie for expansive central retail spaces in Dunedin

Searching for a suitable retail site in Dunedin are Chemist Warehouse New Zealand operations...
Searching for a suitable retail site in Dunedin are Chemist Warehouse New Zealand operations manager Rizman Haroon (left) and New Zealand group managing director Azman Haroon. PHOTO: THE NEW ZEALAND HERALD
Discount pharmacy giant Chemist Warehouse was offered and declined the lease on a key George St site which will now be occupied by a competitor, its New Zealand group managing director says.The Australian-owned chain had been looking for large retail sites in inner-city Dunedin and South Dunedin since 2019, Chemist Warehouse Group New Zealand managing director Azman Haroon said yesterday.

"We have been offered many sites," he said.

"We just need to find the right one."

Chemist Warehouse was offered the 435sqm former ANZ bank building on the corner of George and Hanover Sts, he said.

The busy corner site has been leased through Colliers International by New Zealand discount chain Bargain Chemist, which is due to open there this month.

"We chose not to proceed with that site because it was not big enough," Mr Haroon said.

"We generally have probably twice the size of what was offered."

The company had considered a few sites in Dunedin but they were either too small, too far away or had other issues such as insufficient seismic ratings, he said.

"We are just waiting to find the right one. It is on our priority list."

Chemist Warehouse has expanded rapidly since opening its first New Zealand store in 2017.

It had 19 stores trading in New Zealand and planned to open 15 more this year, he said.

In the South Island, the company would open its third store in Christchurch next week and a fourth store in the second half of the year.

"We can see ourselves at anywhere from 70 to 100 stores in the near future."

A Dunedin store would employ initially between 20 and 30 staff and eventually least 50 staff, including about five pharmacists, he said.

Mr Haroon said Chemist Warehouse had a "good relationship" with the University of Otago School of Pharmacy and the school dean, Prof Carlo Marra.

Prof Marra told the Otago Daily Times yesterday he would be interested to see how the discount chain rolled out its professional pharmacy services.

He confirmed he met Mr Haroon once last year but said he was not aware of the company’s plans to move into Dunedin.

"Pharmacy is much more than cheap prices," Prof Marra said.

"It’s about the kind of service you can provide to patients and improving health outcomes for patients.

"That’s how we train our students," he said.

Prof Marra said he had been assured that Chemist Warehouse offered a robust training programme for pharmacists that supplemented the internship programme offered in the Pharmaceutical Society of New Zealand curriculum.

Edinburgh Realty commercial consultant Merrin Bath said the lead time for a bulk retailer to find a suitable location in Dunedin could be lengthy.

A site twice the size of the former ANZ building would be from 800sqm-900sqm.

"With a such large footprint, you are talking bulk retail," Ms Bath said.

"They’re an extensive fit-out and their product lines are huge."

Large footprints in George St, which typically had shops of 200sqm or less, were hard to find.

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