Kmart fails to find new site, Smiths City moving to Meridian

Photo: ODT files
Photo: ODT files
Smiths City is moving into the third-floor of Dunedin's Meridian mall taking the place of Kmart, which this evening announced it has failed to find a new site in the city.

Smiths City said in a statement this morning it would open its new store in late September - the same time as it planed to close its Andersons Bay store.

The move comes after Kmart announced last month it would not reopen its Meridian mall store after shutting in late March, when New Zealand went into lockdown.

The company has cited concerns about earthquake strengthening needed at the mall, but it was also known to be looking into other possible sites.  

This evening a Kmart spokesperson said it was "very sad to announce that we have not been able to secure a temporary site in Dunedin".

"We have explored many potential locations, but have not been able to find one that is commercially viable for us as a business.

"This means that we will not be able to operate a temporary Kmart site, as we had hoped. But never fear, we are committed to being part of the Dunedin community well into the future. We are currently working through more permanent plans and will update the community as soon as we have information to share.   

It indicated there could be job losses for some of its Dunedin staff.

"Over the coming weeks, we’ll be working with our team to explore suitable opportunities for redeployment within our store network, or within the broader Wesfarmers business. If we are not able to provide our permanent team members with meaningful work, we will provide them with redundancy pay in line with their employment contract.

Smiths City chief executive Tony Allison said the move put the store in the "heart of the city".

"The move to the Meridian Mall, Dunedin’s premier retail destination, puts us at the heart of the city, giving us the opportunity to connect with the young vibrant university and central city communities.

“Meanwhile, the Meridian Mall’s ample parking, easy arterial road access and its exciting range of fashion, food and service outlets will give Smiths City customers coming from outside Dunedin a much richer shopping experience than we offered in the past.

“We understand regional New Zealand and now, supported by our new owner, we will bring a new Smiths City experience, building on a retail legacy that we have built up over more than 100 years.”

No Smiths City jobs would be lost in the move, with staff from the Andersons Bay store transitioning to the new store in the Meridian Mall.

Smiths City was sold earlier this year for $60 million to Polar Capital.

In a market update in June, the NZX-listed company said both its retail and finance operations would be sold to the investment company owned by Colin Neal, founder of refrigerated logistics company Big Chill.

"Since coming under our new 100% Kiwi ownership in May, Smiths City has had the opportunity to think hard about what we stand for and what customers value.

"We are now returning to our roots, putting ourselves at the centre of heartland New Zealand communities," Mr Allison said this morning.



Well, another reason to avoid shopping in the meridian! What about something new and exciting?

The inability of the Meridian to attract to high end retailers into the mall should be concerning to people. Movement of low-end retailers into what is undoubtably prime real estate is symptomatic concerning the true state of the economy. Walk through the Meridian and the Golden Center and count the number of closed or empty stores; things are not good economically in Dunedin. Like many people, I was hoping we would get something new and vibrant in the CBD; something that would bring more people in and revitalize the economy. Unfortunately Smith City isn’t going to do it!


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