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Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Supermarket chains race to reopen damaged stores

Supermarket chains race to reopen damaged stores

Last updated 05:00 12/04/2011
A battle for the shopping dollar is set to heat up as two major supermarket chains race to reopen their earthquake-damaged Christchurch stores.

Progressive, which owns Countdown, FreshChoice and SuperValue, will reopen its Colombo St Countdown store tomorrow.

The Beckenham supermarket escaped structural damage in the February 22 quake, but was affected by water damage after an electrical fire.

The company's Countdown stores at Eastgate, The Palms and Ferrymead remain closed, as does Edgeware SuperValue.

Foodstuffs South Island will demolish its badly hit New World stores in St Martins and Redcliffs.

However, yesterday it confirmed plans to rebuild larger supermarkets with integrated retail shops on the sites.

The fate of the small Lyttelton Four Square store is uncertain.

The moves come as a survey of 680 Canterbury tertiary students shows a trend of people avoiding supermarkets with high-stacked shelves because of earthquake fears.

Lincoln University marketing lecturer Charley Lamb said he was surprised the perceived risk was a greater issue than accessibility to supermarkets on congested roads.

"People are reluctant to go into some of these supermarkets because they don't feel particularly safe. It's only six weeks since the earthquake, and with the aftershocks dying off, I'm sure that behaviour will modify itself."

Foodstuffs chief executive Steve Anderson said customer movement after the quake meant some stores were "over-trading" while others, mostly those near the central-city cordon, were struggling.

"We [Foodstuffs and Progressive] have both lost stores and as a result people are shopping in quite different patterns," he said.

Anderson said it would be "well into next year" before the St Martins and Redcliffs stores were rebuilt.

"In both cases, we're actively creating designs and working with [the city] council to try and get those built as quickly as possible," he said.

"Hopefully, we'll get them demolished as soon as practicable as well," he said.

The St Martins Shopping Centre, which closed after the quake, will be demolished and integrated with the new supermarket.

Foodstuffs had had plans to upgrade Redcliffs before the February 22 quake, Anderson said. "We were intending to reinvest in that supermarket in the next year or so anyway, but, obviously, now we'll be in a clear-site situation and should be able to do an even better job."

Countdown chief operating officer Dave Chambers said The Palms store was scheduled to reopen at the end of June, but Eastgate would be a "a few months" away.

A decision on Ferrymead will be made on Thursday.

He said the Ferrymead store appeared to be "quite good" on the outside, but engineers were debating the extent of the damage.

Despite the closures, the company has retained all 2250 employees in Canterbury. Some had been involved in the extensive cleanup at the Colombo St store.

"We're very hopeful that opening both [Eastgate and The Palms] stores can be achieved in that sort of time frame, but until we're three of four weeks out from the projected opening, we really won't know."

The safety of staff and customers was the priority, Chambers said.

"If that's means that we have a disadvantage, then so be it. It if means we have an advantage, we're certainly not chasing that in any way, shape or form.

"It's actually about trying to do the right thing."

Lamb expected any imbalance between the grocery chains would be "relatively small".

New World St Martins was unlikely to feel the effects of long-term closure as much as supermarkets in Redcliffs and Ferrymead, he said.

He knew of St Martins regulars who travelled as far as Halswell to remain loyal to New World.

Lamb was surprised how quiet it was at Pak 'n Save Moorhouse Ave at the weekends, while the Hornby and Northlands stores were "frantic".

"I suspect that's because [Moorhouse] doesn't have 65,000 people on its doorstep any more, but people aren't making the same efforts to go in there on Saturdays and Sundays as they were pre-earthquake either," Lamb said.

- The Press

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