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Global cosmetics giant Sephora is eyeing a move to Wellington as David Jones shuts shop on the Golden Mile.

It would be Sephora’s first store in New Zealand outside Auckland, where it already has three sites.

Meanwhile, other brands are snapping up space in Wellington’s high-profile redevelopment projects. The retail offering at Stewart Dawson’s Corner is now fully leased.

Across the road, the company behind Auckland’s Commercial Bay is undertaking a major refurbishment of the former Taste on Willis Foodcourt in the basement of the AON Centre.

Sephora staff at the opening of a store in the Sunshine Coast in Australia.
Sephora staff at the opening of a store in the Sunshine Coast in Australia.

Sephora Australia and New Zealand general manager Mark O’Keefe said the company was considering a number of potential locations to expand its footprint outside Auckland, which included Wellington.

“No leases have been signed to date though. New Zealand is an exciting market for us and we are really looking forward to bringing the magic of the Sephora experience to more clients in more cities in the coming years.”

First Retail managing director Chris Wilkinson said he understood Sephora could take the site on Lambton Quay where Shoe Connection was now.

The beauty retailer could also take the vacant neighbouring site, he said.

Wilkinson said the move made sense for LVMH, which had beauty brands like Dior and Chanel in David Jones.

The company would be keen to maintain a connection with shoppers in the capital, he said.

While Wellington’s CBD has experienced pain because of Covid-19, Wilkinson believed there were great opportunities to be had.

“Wellington is a reliable market, it’s consistent in what it delivers.”

Sephora staff at the opening of a store in the Sunshine Coast in Australia.
Sephora staff at the opening of a store in the Sunshine Coast in Australia.

Clusters of complimentary retailers were also a strong point, like outdoors shops on Willis St or more youth-focused shops on Cuba St, Wilkinson said.

“That makes it really easy for consumers. If you want a product, you kind of know where to go in the downtown area.”

JLL sales and leasing director Jim Wana said he was aware Sephora was “in the market” and looking for a site in the capital.

Speaking generally, Wana said he has recently received interest in CBD leases from several prospective international tenants.

Some from Australia were now travelling across the ditch to look at sites as borders reopened, Wana said.

Wellington’s business community has voiced concerns about the hole David Jones will leave on Lambton Quay when it closes on June 12. Its premises are in the building that once housed Kirkcaldie & Stains.

Wana and Wilkinson agreed there was no demand from tenants of a similar scale to David Jones to lease the site.

David Jones in Wellington. Photo / Mark Mitchell
David Jones in Wellington. Photo / Mark Mitchell

Wana said it was likely several tenants would end up in the building, with the ground floor alone being able to house up to seven.

“Which effectively means potentially seven new retailers, so that gives you seven different reasons to come to the CBD.”

Further up Lambton Quay, retail sites in the Stewart Dawson’s Corner redevelopment are now fully leased.

Retailers moving in include Mountain Warehouse, Flo & Frankie, and James Pascoe Ltd.

An investor update from March, published by owner Argosy Property Ltd, reported strong market interest in leasing the remaining office space.

Nearby, Precinct Properties has secured an anchor tenant for a refurbishment of the former Taste on Willis Foodcourt.

A spokesperson said leasing of remaining tenancies was under way.

“We are unable to share timeframes at this stage, however, we look forward to providing more detail about this exciting project over coming months.”

Precinct Properties was committed to the Wellington market with 38,500sq m under construction and a further 15,000sq m of opportunities in the pipeline, the spokesperson said.


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