A ridiculous story hit the news a week or so back re supermarkets making it a condition of their occupancy in shopping centres, not to allow competitors. As a result of the Commerce Commission’s naïve intervention this has now been made illegal, in the purported interest of competition.

I say it’s naïve as supermarkets, like everyone else, pursue their own interest. They’re a critical base tenant in a shopping centre and know it, but if forced to accept competition, will pay a lesser rent. To make the development viable then necessitates the developer charging higher rents to the other non-supermarket tenancies, which added costs will be reflected in their pricing. Ergo; no net benefit to consumers.

I bought my first block of shops sixty years back. Such monopolistic clauses were in every retail lease back then. Today my company owns the most CBD retail premises in Wellington and such clauses no longer appear, nor are sought in retail leases. Here’s why.

Most retailers have learnt the value of being amidst their competitors. Take jewellers.

One of our city buildings has four of the major jewellery chains with shops in it. If a retail vacancy arose it would quickly be snapped up by another jewellery store, to everyone’s advantage. Why? Because jewellery is expensive and varied and customers want to see everything available, thus they will gravitate to the location housing lots of stores in one spot. So too with clothing, specially women’s with its greater variety and likewise used car yard operators who learnt decades back, the merits of being clustered together.

This factor has so much merit whole towns have been devoted to a single retail activity, a classic example being Hay on Wye thriving as a used book mecca.

If you want to buy art in Paris look no further than the flea market, Europe’s biggest. There must be a hundred or so dealers clustered in three parallel streets.

I actually think the same cluster factor applies to supermarkets. Some are costlier than others but compensate in different ways. That’s certainly the case in Australia and Britain.

Public servants and politicians intervening in the market for ostensibly virtuous reasons, are invariably talking nonsense. Their proposals have face-value appeal but reflect their shallow cautious approach to life, as evidenced by their career choices.

Clustering occurs in other non-retail activities as well, albeit for non-commercial reasons. For example, my company has two office buildings in respectively, Auckland and Wellington, each predominantly filled with barristers. Being handy to the courts is a factor but primarily it’s because they like being with “the chaps”, another natural human tendency.

That’s a point loss on unworldly politicians and public servants. We’ve seen a clamour in recent years by these naïfs for state housing to be built amidst upper income locations. That simply makes both factions uncomfortable, each understandably, being human beings with normal impulses, happiest when with folk like themselves, whether rich or poor, Martians or Eskimos.


You’re quite correct Bob about Australia operating differently than NZ. In my local suburb over here in QLD there’s a smaller (by Oz standards…) mall that I go to. It has a large Woolworths, an Aldi, a large fresh fruit / vegetable / deli shop & The Reject Shop, all within about a minutes walk of each other. Added to that is a Coles directly across the road. Between them theres a massive variety & its a lot of fun learning who’s got what product at a better price!

    And, of course, the larger the shopping centre the greater the crowds of shoppers. Isn’t “wider choice” the reason why these places have proliferated? And why strip-shops are dying?

Agreed for the most part…

Not sure supermarkets or for that matter other large retailers not having exclusive rights within larger shopping centres would have a compounding effect of increasing rents for smaller retailers. Lowering the larger retailer rents I would agree with, however small retail shops can only afford rent based on turnover, with most on turnover rents anyway… That being said, a secondary bulk retailer could bring more turnover to the smaller shops…

I guess time will tell, however what society needs is more competition; rather than less. This is how China became rich, as they focused on the customer rather than more regulation which for the most part is to create high barriers to entry, and stifle competition..

Elon Musk understands this, and doesnt patent. Unfortunately, the western globalists and their enablers have become too bigger parasites, and now eating the host…

Being in Asia brings this home. Years ago I needed some photocopying done so was directed to that street with a variety of copy services, then a few streets over Tailors everywhere, Electronic outlet’s clustered together and so the list went on..

I’m struggling with your argument here. On one hand you are saying that clustering supermarkets in malls will be at a disadvantage to consumers, yet on the other hand you are extolling the benefits of clustering of other sectors to consumers and businesses. Are you having a bob each way in this instance?

Think you are agreeing that competition is good and similar operations are good for both the consumer and landlords.
Anchor tenants are important to the viability and layout of retail developments. You sight lower rents for non anchor tenants as a justification for a restive trade clause in leases.
Supermarkets historically have been active with restrictive clauses to landlords regarding competition and the effect on the consumer has been higher food prices.
A developer often requires an anchor tenant to pass the threshold of funding and hence viability. It is this leverage that allows these clauses in the first place. The consumer is the net looser.
Not a fan of any Government intervention in this area but also question how best to ensure a level playing field for the consumer and property investor.

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