Whitford City expansion veers off course

FINANCIAL woes at the Adelaide-based Harris Scarfe discount department store chain have knocked the Whitford City Shopping Centre’s $80 million expansion plans off track.

Harris Scarfe was the preferred tenant to anchor Whitford City’s proposed 13,000 square metre expansion plan to include a third department store and up to 50 specialty outlets. Construction was to commence in December this year but will now only commence if another department store takes up the space earmarked for Harris Scarfe. Leases over the specialty areas will not be negotiated until after a department store is signed up.

Harris Scarfe embarked on an ambitious expansion program in Perth in recent years, adding to its existing Peppermint Grove store with new outlets at Carousel and Mirrabooka.

The company shocked the retail industry when it went into receivership last month. While existing Harris Scarfe stores are continuing to trade, negotiations to open new stores have been stopped.

Retail director for FPD Saville (Whitford City’s managing agent) Craig Wilson said Harris Scarfe was not the centre’s only option, although he was unable to comment further on potential tenants for Whitford’s new retail space.

Major tenants in the centre already include Target, Big W, Woolworths and Action.

Industry sources suggest both David Jones and Myer may be interested in the space.

The impending relabelling of the Aherns department stores to David Jones is expected to accelerate competition between the two department store giants and herald a tussle for market leadership.

Whitford City Shopping Centre is the largest single asset in the listed AXA Australia Diversified Property Trust. AXA Australia spokesman Daryl Stubbings said Whitford City contributed 18 per cent of the $1.3 billion trust’s income.

Moving annual turnover from the centre as at March 2001 was $219.25 million.

Plans to expand Whitford City Shopping Centre’s GLA to about 70000sqm have been in progress for more than two years. Initially, plans were rejected by government because of the centre’s close proximity to the Lakeside Joondalup Shopping City. Approval was granted late last year after a lengthy appeal to the Planning Tribunal.

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