Despite the tough times faced by retail during the rise of COVID-19 last year, we at Stockland steamed ahead with a multitude of projects and initiatives. While health and safety protocol remained a priority, we are proud of our teams for going above and beyond to implement measures aimed at keeping our centres the thriving community hubs they ought to be. Let’s cover-off some of our highlights.
Redefining our spaces
We reaffirmed our position as a leader in inclusion with the opening of three new inclusive playspaces at Stockland Merrylands, Shellharbour and Cairns. The spaces were innovatively designed with children’s charity Variety, allowing kids of all abilities to play together, including those with physical disabilities, vision, hearing and mobility impairments, or spectrum disorders such as autism. The aim was to increase accessibility to a wider range of children, so as to enhance families’ experience at the centres. And the community has responded with overwhelmingly positive feedback, commenting on the abundance of space, increased safety measures and engaging designs.
Stockland Traralgon also welcomed the rollout of BindiMaps, an app that facilitates simple navigation for the blind or vision-impaired in indoor locations. This technology plays a major role in supporting people who have low vision to access the community independently and feel included in society. It’s rollout was particularly timely given the important role it plays with the impacts of COVID-19, as customers can more quickly and efficiently complete their shopping, while also eliminating the need come in close contact with others to ask for directions.
In addition to these playspaces, we launched a range of other inclusive amenities at a number of our town centres, to foster a sense of belonging by all. At Stockland Shellharbour, a discreet safe room was established for women attempting to escape domestic violence, while at Stockland Wetherill Park a multi-faith prayer room was allocated for people of different religious beliefs to utilise for contemplation or prayer.
Customers and retailers at Stockland Harrisdale were thrilled to celebrate the opening of The Patch, our new outdoor community space designed for families to meet and play. The beautiful shared space incorporates seating, a cubby house, sandpit, chalk board wall, sensory play, colorful flower beds and a mud kitchen.
The space came about in response to community feedback suggesting the need for a fun outdoor environment where parents could connect and children could play and learn. Today, the family-oriented Harrisdale community enjoys The Patch for coffee catch-ups with friends, parent group meetings, kids birthday parties and play dates.
Exciting store openings
Despite the challenging market conditions, our portfolio of valued retail partners continued to grow throughout the year with a large number of renewals and new partnerships. These deals reflect our remixing strategy which is centred around building a balanced retail offering curated to the needs of the local community. By responding to customer feedback, we create personalised experiences that are conducive to an engaging retail experience for all.
The opening of new stores excited customers, with some major names joining the Stockland family.
Following a raft of customer requests during the redevelopment of Stockland Green Hills, Cotton On Mega and TK Maxx opened their doors late last year. The store openings highlight our focus on creating truly curated spaces, as we build a retail mix that is bespoke to local needs. Excitedly, the Townsville region officially received its first Swarovski retail store, located at Stockland Townsville. The store offers customers the full Swarovski experience out of their new 58 square metre world-class store.
After a well-received store opening at Stockland Merrylands in 2019, we were thrilled to announce the expansion of our partnership with JD Sports. The leading sneaker and sports fashion retailer opened their latest store at Stockland Wetherill Park, much to the delight of the local community. A similarly exciting opportunity, also realised in the midst of COVID-19, was our involvement in the first wave of Pivot Store openings. Pivot represents Accent Group’s new lifestyle footwear concept, with Stockland store openings at Green Hills, Wendouree and Shellharbour Retail Park.
A number of new retail offerings also followed the announcement of the new $5 million extension to the Baringa Town Centre. The project will welcome Avenue Dental, Aura Family Doctors and John Wallace Swim School, bringing a number of valuable facilities and services to the award-winning masterplanned community.
The events of 2020 meant that fostering a sense of community at our retail town centres was more important than ever. At Stockland Forster and Wetherill Park we gathered submissions from the community for the design and install of local art murals. The installations pay tribute to the respective areas, their heritage, culture, and people.
At Stockland Hervey Bay, we strengthened our partnership with the local neighborhood centre by donating the food court playground. It will become the location for a new collaborative learning space, enabling families with small children to get involved with activities and programs in a safe environment.
Stockland Green Hills was awarded the esteemed Best Shopping Centre Development at Property Council of Australia’s (PCA) 2020 Innovation & Excellence Awards. The award comes after the centre’s successful $421 million redevelopment, which reflects and celebrates the identity of the Hunter Valley community with facilities and a retail mix curated to local needs.
We were also thrilled to open the highly-anticipated and award-winning NightQuarter at Stockland Birtinya. The sprawling 7,000 square metre space comes to life every weekend with exclusive opportunities to experience live bands and specialty performers, in addition to street art, market stalls and food, vintage amusement rides and more. NightQuarter is strongly aligned with our focus on bringing personalised customer experiences to our retail town centres while supporting local artists and businesses.
While we always strive to create vibrant environments at our town centres, keeping everyone safe in a pandemic-impacted world of retail remains our first priority. All Stockland centres continue to operate under a COVIDSafe Plan that supports the protection of staff and customers, and also prepares for the scenario of suspected or confirmed COVID-19 cases. Naming but a few of our safety protocols initiated in 2020, we formed a Crisis Management Team, rolled out a suite of social distancing markers, increased cleaning schedules, maintained regular communication updates and unearthed some of the common new challenges faced in the post-COVID-19 world through retailer research.
We at Stockland recognise that 2020 was incredibly challenging for all our retailers. We have been working hard to support all stakeholders with a tranche of proactive measures that not only respond to constantly evolving COVID-19 conditions but also progress our underlying strategic priorities.
As we progress through 2021, our commitment to engaging with retailers to support the local communities in which we both operate remains steadfast.