Kmart to create 60 jobs in Marlborough, but concerns remain over CBD impact

Ricky Wilson/FAIRFAX NZ

What do you think about Kmart coming to Blenheim?

Kmart is coming to Blenheim, and with it 60 new jobs for the region.

Enthusiasm for the retail giant has reached fever pitch after the company confirmed it planned to open a store in the town next year.

But concerns have also been raised about the impact of having a popular big box retailer like Kmart on the outskirts of town.  

Property group Outer Limits has applied for resource consent to build a 5000 square metre store and cafe at its Westwood development, in Springlands.

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Kmart department stores division head of property Ben Smith said, subject to consent being grant, the store would open before Christmas next year.

Megan Hogg and Ginny Young, from the Marlborough Youth Trust, at the site of a new Kmart, in Blenheim.

Megan Hogg and Ginny Young, from the Marlborough Youth Trust, at the site of a new Kmart, in Blenheim.

"We are humbled by the support the community has shared so far and we can't wait to open our doors," he said.

Smith said the store, which would be the 23rd Kmart in New Zealand, would employ up to 60 staff across fulltime, part-time and casual roles.

Marlborough Youth Trust manager Jo Lane said it was a massive opportunity for young people in Marlborough to find work.

"I think it's going to be fantastic for the region, especially for young people and their employment," she said.

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However, some retailers in the Blenheim town centre have expressed reservations about Kmart being located at Westwood, on the edge of town off State Highway 63.

Blenheim Business Association chairman Anthony Mullen said retailers operating in the same field as Kmart might have to re-think their business.

"It certainly does undermine the CBD but that's the reality of being a business, you're always going to have competition," he said.

"You have to understand what your competition is doing and you have to be able to respond in an appropriate way to make sure your business remains viable."

CBD Cafe owner Tania Godsall said it was great when any new business, including Kmart, decided to set up in Blenheim.

"It's fantastic. I only have concerns that it may make the CBD less attractive for people to come in and to purchase things from the central business district," she said.

Other retailers in the CBD expressed similar concerns, while some said having a Kmart in Blenheim would stop people going to Nelson and spending money there.

The resource consent application filed by Outer Limits included an economic assessment analysis on the impact a Kmart would have on other retail areas in Blenheim.

The CBD was found to be the worse affected, with a projected 1.6 per cent drop in turnover, or $5 million, on an estimated baseline of $310 million in 2018.

"The Blenheim CBD – the centre at greatest risk – has several department stores, each of which will compete with the new Kmart store to varying degrees.

"Consequently, trade impacts will be spread across several stores, and not threaten the viability of any single store in isolation."

Overall, the report found the rest of Marlborough would experience a net gain in turnover once Kmart was established, rising by up to 3.3 per cent.

The region would also scoop up some $2m from Nelson and Tasman, due to a reduction in "leakage" - or shoppers spending money outside of Marlborough.

Outer Limits director Phil Robinson said the figures in the report proved there would not be a significant impact on the CBD.

"But what it will do is bring other options to the community. We think it stops some of the leakage that has been going out of town, so it's a net benefit to the community," he said.

Robinson said the 60 jobs Kmart would create was also a positive.

"That's the point of what we're trying to do at Westwood, to create another employment centre, it's not just shopping, there's some real benefits for Marlborough."

 - The Marlborough Express


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