Woolies snaps up Centro complex
RETAIL giant Woolworths has bought the vast Centro shopping centre in Lismore, paying a reported $23 million.
Settlement took place last Friday of the Carrington St complex, where the supermarket chain has long been an "anchor tenant". The 8400sqm site houses another 18 specialty retailers.
Simon Berger, the company's community relations manager, would not comment on reports that the space was destined to house a Woolworths-owned Masters store, a new hardware chain being unfurled along the eastern seaboard to challenge the giant Bunnings chain.
Colliers, the real estate agency that secured the deal, advertised the Centro complex as having "potential for specialty remix and reversionary income to further capitalise on the prominent CBD location", but Mr Berger said it was too early to say what changes were to be made at the site.
Woolworths would be looking "to deliver the best possible shopping experience for customers in the future", he said.
"It is fair to say that we think there is scope for improvement," he said. "We can't yet specify what improvements will be made to the centre as we will be considering various options in the coming months."
Several retailers in the complex had not heard about their new landlord and others were reluctant to comment.
But Lucinda Dyason, owner of the Pets & Saddles shop, said it was of "obvious concern that multinationals are buying everything up".
"There are a lot of personal feelings flying around among the store owners, none of them very comfortable," she said.
Although the tenants had been advised there would soon be some communication from the new owner, she said store owners had no idea "what they're going to do with us or what they're going to do with our rents".
The Woolworths outlet in Centro had "really strong support from customers", Mr Berger said.
"So when the centre was put up for sale, we saw an opportunity to further improve that customer experience and Woolworths' really great relationship with Lismore," he said.
"We will be assessing over the coming months how to upgrade the centre. It would be premature at this stage to be specific, but it is certainly our intention to improve it."
Woolworths is more commonly known as a tenant than a property owner, but Mr Berger pointed to the recent creation of stores in Goonellabah and, controversially, in Mullumbimby, "where we were the developer". It had also played that role in other places, such as Carrara, in Queensland, he said.
He was not able to confirm the reported sale price "under the confidential terms of the contract". The sale is one of several being made by the ailing Centro group, including at least one other to Woolworths.