Countdown closure decision tough

Countdown New Plymouth is due to close its doors in March.
Countdown New Plymouth is due to close its doors in March.

More than 50 New Plymouth supermarket employees will be out of work when Progressive Enterprises closes Leach St Countdown in March.

Countdown spokesman Luke Schepen said it was no longer financially viable for the New Plymouth supermarket to continue trading. A total of 52 staff would be left out of work.

"This decision is certainly not one that has been made lightly," Schepen said.

The last trading day for Countdown Leach St would be March 3, 2013.

Countdown management had informed the team on Friday and were working closely with the retail workers' union, First Union.

Management would try to find employment opportunities at the region's other Progressive supermarkets for the 52 staff who would be left out of work.

Progressive had four Countdown stores in New Plymouth, including the Leach St business.

The Leach St Countdown was one of four supermarkets on Courtenay St.

Just last year a neighbouring Woolworths was refurbished into a Countdown. The other Countdown stores are in Spotswood and The Valley.

Sales at the Leach St store had significantly declined over the past 3 1/2 years, Schepen said.

"This is in no way a reflection on the efforts of the team at Countdown New Plymouth and the hard work they have been putting in every day into serving our customers."

Leach St Countdown opened in December 1992.

With about 1500 square metres of retail space, it was one of the smaller stores in the Countdown network, Schepen said.

Progressive did not own the land and would discuss lease arrangements with the landlord.

Progressive closed its Westown Woolworths in May 2011, after opening its new Countdown supermarket in Spotswood.

Conflict between supermarket giants Foodstuffs and Progressive Enterprises had surrounded the Westown site since Foodstuffs bought the Progressive-leased property in 2008.

Foodstuffs' stated intention to develop a New World on the property sparked a legal battle over who had the right to lease the land.

A High Court decision eventually granted Foodstuffs the right to boot Progressive off the Westown site and develop its own New World supermarket when the lease expired in July 2012.

Foodstuffs property and retail development general manager Marty Price said at the time that the redevelopment work would soon begin to build a 2050 square metres store, which would include a cafe and improved parking facilities.

Taranaki Daily News