Supermarket giant eyes retail mix

Jon SolmundsonGeraldton Guardian
Metier Consulting chief executive Darryll Ashworth checks in on Wandina’s $12 million Woolworth’s shopping complex. The store is expected to open by the third week of September.
Camera IconMetier Consulting chief executive Darryll Ashworth checks in on Wandina’s $12 million Woolworth’s shopping complex. The store is expected to open by the third week of September. Credit: Jon Solmundson, The Geraldton Guardian

Doctors and groceries might not be something you imagine to belong hand in hand, but as the new Wandina shopping centre approaches completion, Metier Consulting chief executive Darryll Ashworth explained why this mix is Woolworths’ new game plan.

The 4500sqm, $12 million shopping centre is expected to provide 100 jobs with Woolworths and another 30 to 40 jobs with 10 other retailers.

The other retail spaces, only two of which remain vacant, will include a newsagency, hairdresser, cafe, pharmacy and other specialty stores.

There will also be a freestanding medical complex with nine general practitioners included on the 20,000sqm block.

Mr Ashworth said whenever his firm approached a new development for Woolworths, they now considered putting in a medical centre to act as an “anchor” for the surrounding businesses.

“Most people take the morning off to see the doctor, but they go and see the doctor for 20 minutes and they’re left with what we call ‘invisible time’ — a few hours to sort of fudge around,” he said.

“That free time is often spent by actually spending money, so we love these medical centres.

“(Patients) go to the doctor who says ‘take these pills from the pharmacy and stay off the grog’... then they go and get a sandwich from the cafe next door.

“They think ‘oh, maybe I’ll get my hair cut as well’.

“The conveyor belt of people that creates is enormous — it’s spitting out all these potential customers ... the research that we’ve done is this is a massive generator of sales for the rest of the centre.”

Mr Ashworth said the new complex would also be built to a higher standard than Geraldton’s older-style CBD “box malls”, including plenty of free, shaded parking, so it would be an attractive option to buyers if Woolworths sold it off in a few years, which was their current standard operating procedure.

“It’s Woolworths who is the developer; they do this not because they like developing property, but because they want longevity, they want people to keep coming in and buying their baked beans from them,” he said.

“The more they make it comfortable for their future customers, the better.”

Mr Ashworth also said one of the greatest benefits the centre provided to the community was employing people who might otherwise find it difficult to get into work.

“Maybe what people don’t always realise is Woolworths and Coles are some of the biggest employers of teenagers in the country,” he said.

“It gives them a first entree into what being responsible is about.

“Woolworths and Coles are also one of the largest employers of single parents because the shifts they offer are so flexible.”

Seacrest Shopping Centre is slated to open in the third week of September, just a month later than the estimated completion date given at the start of construction, in July last year.

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