Canberra Airport supermarkets

The ACT supermarket policy has just hit a roadblock with the announcement that Woolworths will join Costco in a major wholesale supermarket shakeup, after Canberra Airport was forced to look for a new tenant because of the continuing demise of Brand Depot. The only possible benefit to other supermarkets in the ACT from this development is that Costco might become an alternative wholesale supplier for smaller IGA’s and Supabarn in addition to Metcash, as well as Costco being a competitor to Woolworths in wholesale goods. A wide-ranging newspaper dialogue on this topic has just taken place.

The Canberra Times Tuesday                       28 June 2011

Airport Woolies spooks retailers – Fears competition policy a dud

By John Thistleton

Business Editor

Retailers fear the ACT’s supermarket competition policy is failing after the announcement that Woolworths will build its biggest territory store at Canberra Airport. Woolworths will open the supermarket as well as Big W and Dick Smith outlets in the Brand Depot complex to take on American retail giant Costco, which opens next month at Majura Park.

Small retailers say the big stores will hit Canberra and Queanbeyan like an unstoppable locomotive, swamping the ACT with floor space. Woolworths’ ACT rival Supabarn is likely to pull out of its airport site next to Costco, saying it was unaware of the wave of retailing on its way when it moved to Majura Park last year. Supabarn is among retailers which believe the Government’s supermarket competition policy to curb Coles’ and Woolworths’ dominance of the Canberra market is a dud.

Woolworths’ 4800sqm supermarket, with ‘tens of thousands” of line items, and the two other stores will sit inside the former Brand Depot discount outlet, employing 300 people and opening before Easter next year.

The move blunts the Government’s attack on Woolworths’ domination. Former chief minister Jon Stanhope vowed his policy would dictate which supermarket chains could go to specific sites, favouring smaller players Supabarn, IGA and Aldi. But on Commonwealth land the airport is immune to the territory’s planning and competition policies, and is developing the 38ha Majura Park into a shopping hub.

ACT Economic Development Minister Andrew Barr said Woolworths’ contest with Costco would benefit consumers. “The ACT Government has been doing what it can to foster increased competition in the supermarket sector across Canberra. Healthy competition between a number of players is in the best interest of Canberra consumers,” Mr Barr said.

Woolworths’ community relations manager Simon Berger said when big and small supermarkets competed with one another, customers were the winners.

ACT Chamber of Commerce chief executive Chris Peters said while Woolworths’ expansion contradicted the competition policy, it would bring a new dynamic when coupled with Costco’s arrival. Smaller IGAs and Supabarn would have an alternative supplier in Costco to buy their goods wholesale in addition to their chief supplier Metcash, which would bring about lower prices.

Supabarn spokesman James Koundouris said it was now likely Supabarn would shift its retail and warehousing operation elsewhere. He was disappointed in the airport and questioned the impact of another 30,000sqm of retail space. “Effects will be felt throughout the town. This is a good example of the major supermarket chains increasing their market share at the expense of independents and Supabarn unfortunately did not have a restrictive covenant in its lease to prevent this from happening.”

Civic retailer John Hanna said questions should be raised on how much floor space was being allocated for conglomerates. “They are like a locomotive these big stores, you can’t stop them. Look out small business. We bricks-and-mortar retailers are faced with extreme competition from this form of retailing, which I call paddock retailers.”

Canberra Airport managing director Stephen Byron said he did not expect the three new tenants to impact on Majura Road traffic. Brand Depot’s shops had been dwindling throughout this year, prompting the airport to look for a new tenant. “We realised straight away we had to look for a large format retailer and we cast the net very wide to look for something very different from what clearly didn’t work.”

Queanbeyan Business Council president Jamie Cregan said a “Buy In Queanbeyan” promotion would coincide with Costco’s opening. “We will be encouraging residents to think first before spending money across the border.”

Note: copyright of the material in this clipping resides with Fairfax Media. Usage permitted in accordance with the Australian Copyright Act 1968, Section 42: Fair dealing for purpose of reporting news. Source: The Canberra Times – 28 June 2011


The Canberra Times Wednesday                     29 June 2011

Greens urge Albanese to curb retail development at airport

By John Thistleton

Business Editor

The ACT Greens want federal Transport Minister Anthony Albanese to rein-in non-aviation related development at Canberra Airport. Woolworths will build its biggest Canberra supermarket next to US retail giant Costco at the airport, as well as a Big Wand Dick Smith outlet.

The move has raised questions of how effective the ACT Government’s supermarket competition policy is in limiting Woolworths’ expansion in the territory and has angered Greens planning spokeswoman Caroline Le Couteur.

In a letter to Mr Albanese, Ms Le Couteur criticises unfettered development at the airport, which is disproportionate to supermarket restrictions in the ACT. “The federal mismanagement of the Canberra Airport precinct has led to flow-on effects throughout the community. “The ACT Government has been forced to pay for extensive and expensive roadworks throughout the area to try and accommodate traffic flows that should never have been directed to the locale.” She said proposed and existing retail and business development at the airport had not been planned with any consideration of the potential impact on other town centres in Canberra and Queanbeyan.

Airport managing director Stephen Byron rejects the claims, saying development is within limits of commercial and retail spaces agreed to by the ACT Government. He said Mr Albanese required the airport to engage with the ACT Government on planning to integrate airport developments with local planning. Secondly, Mr Albanese rejected our master plan and asked for it to be approved after a fresh round of consultation and required inclusion of planning limits requested and agreed to by the ACT Government on the amount of retail and commercial office space at the airport in each precinct. “The airport is well inside those limits, which have also been incorporated in a memorandum of understanding.”

Mr Le Couteur also attacked the airport’s business park development. “We are aware of many employees of government departments who work at the Brindabella Business Park who are unhappy that they need to travel so far, that there is no effective public transport system, and that they cannot enjoy the benefits that most other public service workers have in Canberra of a convenient workplace near appropriate amenities.”

She said existing and anticipated developments, including defence industry, general office, retail, accommodation, conference, hotel, personal services, community facilities, horticulture and recreation, threatened other local development. “We are very strongly of the view that any development at the Canberra Airport needs to also satisfy ACT planning requirements, and that the Canberra community that will be affected by developments must have some real influence over the outcomes.”

Note: copyright of the material in this clipping resides with Fairfax Media. Usage permitted in accordance with the Australian Copyright Act 1968, Section 42: Fair dealing for purpose of reporting news. Source: The Canberra Times – 29 June 2011


The Canberra Times Friday                     2 July 2011

Nation’s privatized airports are turning civic planning on its head

Letter to the editor

The concerns about unfettered development at Canberra Airport expressed by the ACT Greens (“Greens urge Albanese to curb retail development at airport”, June 29, p3) are part of a wider national problem. The selling of Australia’s capital city airports by the Commonwealth Government to private operators is a spectacular example of the privatisation process carrying enormous ramifications for city planning and functioning. At other Australian airports, various groups have similarly raised concerns, including local councils and council coalitions, local business, commercial industry groups, and environmental groups.

The Airports Act was not designed to deal with a massive expansion of non-aeronautical activities. Yet major airports now have a vast array of business parks and retail outlets, with very significant implications for surrounding jurisdictions. The airport developments are effectively buffered from state and territory planning authorities and their planning controls.

As one commentator put it, airports are now in effect “runways with shopping malls beside them”. The weak planning framework and lack of integration with state and territory planning controls is the inevitable consequence of the Commonwealth selling off the airports at absolute bargain prices to the current airport owners. A major overhaul of the Airports Act could perhaps partly remedy the unsatisfactory situation flagged by the ACT Greens. However, the power of vested interests, now well out of the gate and running, is unlikely to be curbed easily.

Murray May, Cook

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