Retail continues to thrive in Wellington, and thanks to a few recent and upcoming openings there are now virtually no vacancies on the Golden Mile or Featherston St, with a few exceptions at the northern end. Here's a quick roundup of some of the changes, workingly roughly from south to north.
Last weekend, Butlers Chocolate Cafe opened in the long-empty building that once hosted Kopi. It's something quite new for Wellington, but even if you've never seen one of the other stores in the chain, it has a definite franchise feel about it. All that shiny brass, buttery faux-classical woodwork and bright lighting works against any intimacy that the tiny space might have generated. The plasma screen with slow-motion loops of their products and branding completes the shopping mall ambience. Nevertheless, their chocolates do taste good, and while I wouldn't rave about the coffee, their range of hot chocolates sound like they'll be very tempting when the temperatures start to fall.
A little further up Willis St, the corner of Mercer St will soon be getting an Adidas store. According to an article in yesterday's Dominion Post, this will not be a "sports performance outlet" like the one in Auckland, but "a heritage outlet - concentrating on fashion, rediscovering the products of the 1970s and 80s and tweaking them for the 21st century". In other words, more Run DMC than actual running.
The space in the Old Bank Arcade vacated by Vodafone when they moved to their sleek new store across the road has recently re-opened as Bucks of Wellington. Some of the iconography (deer heads and model ships) hints at Rodd & Gunn outdoorsy masculinity, but that's clearly an ironic pose since the stock is much more about men's designer streetwear in a vaguely Area 51 or Good as Gold sense. Perfect for any Lambton Quay workers who might think that what this end of town has been missing is an opportunity to spend $125 on a Space Invaders T-shirt.
Just off the Golden Mile, that strange little building on the corner of Featherston and Brandon Streets will soon be opening as the Wellington branch of Christchurch-based merino clothing empire Untouched World. While it may not include a Pacific Rim restaurant like its flagship store, they have a reputation for innovative design and a wide-ranging approach to retail (how many clothing manufacturers have an artist in residence?), so it could be a space to watch.
A little further away, S.O.S. has opened near Latitude 41 on Queens Wharf. It's a bit hard to categorise (mostly takeaway sandwiches and drinks, but with hints of dairy or newsagent), but it's good to see one of the spaces that had become ground floor offices being returned to retail use. The old Queens Wharf retail centre was an unmitigated disaster, of course, but that's hardly suprising when the planned 31-storey office tower and apartments next door never materialised. With the Meridian building now only months away, the associated boost in daytime population should make retail even more viable in the Queens Wharf and Kumutoto areas.
Back on Lambton Quay, the big change is the imminent opening of Borders, which some people have been hanging out for for a while. The shelves have been installed, and just looking from the other side of the street at the enormous first floor area gives a good idea of how vast this shop will be.
The former Askew site on Midland Park is also set to reopen, this time as the second branch of t leaf T . There's no word yet on whether it will be strictly retail like the Dukes Arcade shop, or whether they'll also be serving tea to sit-down customers. From the sounds of things, the lack of proper tea service in Wellington cafés (the Chaps would not be impressed) means that there's a gap in the market for a specialist tea shop.
The retail market changes quite markedly once you get north of here. South of Stout St, it looks like there's only a single street-level space for lease (the Mainly Tramping shop in Manners St) on the entire Golden Mile. Between here and the Beehive there are several large vacant spaces, though only one seems to be visibly for lease: the former home of Lambton Magazines, which closed quite suddenly late last year. There's been a lot of shuffling around here, with shops sometimes moving just a few metres along the street. One of these was Quay Computers, whose former premises around the corner in Bowen St have just been taken over by Kinetic Design, a retailer that seems to specialise in knockoffs of pieces inspired by classic modernist furniture. Barcelona chairs for about $1500? Shhh, no-one tell Peter Bromhead!