Christchurch shopping set to resume

GEORGINA STYLIANOU
Last updated 05:00 28/10/2011
Daniel Tobin

The Press was given a tour of the preparations underway in the Ballantynes store as it gets ready to reopen for the first time since February's quake.

Ballantynes
JOHN KIRK-ANDERSON
SORTED: Ballantynes director Richard Ballantyne, left, with John Foster and Sue Topp putting displays in order before the store reopens tomorrow.
Ballantynes
JOHN KIRK-ANDERSON
FINAL TOUCHES: Small but important details are put in place as staff and contractors prepare for Ballantynes to get back into retailing in central Christchurch tomorrow.
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Staff and building contractors have a long day ahead to ensure landmark Christchurch department store Ballantynes is ready to reopen tomorrow.

A hive of construction workers busied themselves outside the Colombo St entrance of the department store yesterday and staff carried in boxes of stock.

Managing director Mary Devine said people had "worked tirelessly" to ensure the store was looking its best when it reopens at 1pm tomorrow.

"A lot of hours have gone into this and contractors have been in here for the last six months and staff have done a lot too, especially in the last five or six weeks," she said.

More than 120 Ballantynes staff and 140 building contractors, all wearing hi-vis vests and hard hats, were rearranging clothing, preparing displays, laying floors and adjusting panels.

The store had been brought up to 100 per cent of the new building code, Devine said.

The Anderson and Stables buildings on Lichfield St have been demolished and a new temporary structure has replaced them.

Devine said repairs had been "extensive and expensive".

"It's cost millions of dollars ... but we have taken this time to freshen the store up too."

Repairs included replacing partitions, upgrading fire alarms and smoke-detection systems, replacing the ceiling and resealing the lower ground floor.

Director Richard Ballantyne said there had been some staff redundancies.

"It has unfortunately been part of it," he said.

"We are working on a smaller scale and we've accepted that."

Before February 22, Ballantynes employed about 395 staff at its city, airport and Timaru stores. About 300 were employed at the City Mall store.

Ballantyne said the store now had 280 staff.

"We're really excited about reopening, it will be wonderful," he said. "I think people will get used to coming back into the city and every time they will feel safer and this building is absolutely safe."

Ballantynes is also part of the Restart project and has 12 pop-up shops, including Contemporary Lounge and Mimco, along Cashel St.

Prime Minister John Key will be in Christchurch to officially reopen City Mall tomorrow.

Organisers of the City Mall Restart have been rushing to build a temporary shopping precinct in the City Mall in time for Cup and Show Week.

The precinct, made of 60 shipping containers, has 27 shops, including part of Ballantynes, two cafes and an ASB bank.

It will be the first significant part of central Christchurch to reopen since the February 22 earthquake.

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- The Press

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