CEO Outlook 2024: Michelle Abbey, Town Centres

03 April 2024
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Michelle Abbey, Executive General Manager, Town Centres Michelle Abbey, Executive General Manager, Town Centres

In 2024, we are focused on optimising our Town Centre business while progressing plans to leverage our diverse property portfolio to create new retail town centres and mixed-use precincts.

Before looking ahead, it’s worth pausing to reflect on last year and the impacts of cost-of-living pressures caused by the double whammy of rising inflation and interest rates.

With our focus on everyday essentials and services, Stockland met the needs of more customers at our suburban and regional centres in 2023 compared to the previous year. What we did notice was a change in spending habits. Despite some positive signs that inflation is easing and interest rates are stabilising, the trend for more prudent and thoughtful spending is likely to continue.

Savvy shoppers scored on value and convenience and got ahead of Christmas during the Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales. According to Australia Post, Black Friday and Cyber Monday saw a 4.6% growth of online purchases over the sales period from 20 November to 3 December 2023 .

A balancing act

Over the years, we’ve remixed and repositioned our town centre portfolio to focus on what’s important to our customers and retailers.

We continue to do so, closely observing sector trends and the growth potential in health and wellbeing, education, and other community real estate. Opportunities in dental, pharmacy, medical, sports, insurance, entertainment, and childcare, align with a growing societal focus on health and wellbeing.

We are bringing this trend to life at our town centre in Baringa, a suburb of our Aura masterplanned community in Southeast Queensland. We are completing an expansion of health and lifestyle services to include a physiotherapy clinic, pharmacy as well as a real estate agency to service the growing Aura community.

We’re also responding to the ongoing growth in food and beverage spending by ensuring our dining precincts hit the mark and offer a great customer experience. According to Deloitte Insights, 45% of respondents surveyed in December ‘splurged’ on food and beverage within the past month, more than double the number of respondents splurging on clothing and accessories .

At Stockland Wetherill Park in Western Sydney, we’ve revitalised the Kinchin Lane dining precinct, taking on board retailer and customer feedback to improve the ambience and functionality of the space. Kinchin Lane has been relaunched as a key destination in the centre with a great range of restaurants and a fun kids’ play space.

Stockland Wetherill Park, NSWImage: Stockland Wetherill Park, NSW

We’re also about to start a refresh of one of the dining precincts at Stockland Point Cook in Melbourne. When complete, customers will be able to enjoy new food retailers, a play space for kids, and flexible options that can cater to either a quiet meeting or larger social gatherings.

According to Euromonitor, customers are looking for ‘delightful distractions’ that lift their emotions and provide relief from the mundane. The improvements make the dining precincts more inviting and playful and give customers space to take a moment to recharge and enjoy themselves.

Building our legacy

Stockland is Australia’s leading community creator, building thriving, connected communities that help more Australians achieve the dream of home ownership.

Like our founder Ervin Graf did in the 50s and 60s, we’re looking to the new suburbs – communities that are growing, communities that are providing housing to first home buyers and young families, communities that are being created by Stockland.

The growth of our Town Centre business lies in the creation of new retail destinations that are accessible and provide these new communities with a convenient range of retailers and services to meet residents’ everyday needs.

We are currently prioritising new town centres in our masterplanned communities – The Gables in New South Wales, Providence in Queensland, and Sienna Wood in Western Australia.

The Gables is set among the rolling hills of the enviable Hills district in the north-west of Sydney. Once complete, the town centre will feature dining, education, and retail precincts. We’ve recently received approval for the town centre’s first stage which will include a full-line supermarket, around 18 specialty shops, food and beverage, and a function centre and gym.

The Gables, NSW (artist impression)Image: The Gables, NSW (artist's impression)

On the west coast, Sienna Wood is a picturesque community located 38km south-east of Perth nestled at the foot of the Darling Ranges. It too has received approval for the first stage of a town centre with a supermarket, specialty shops and food and dining.

Providence is located in the heart of the Ripley Valley in the fast-growing South East Queensland corridor. Last year, we lodged an application for the first stage of a town centre that will include space for a supermarket and 12 other tenancies.

Residents in these communities are calling out for infrastructure and amenity, including town centres where they can shop for groceries close to home and connect with their new neighbours and friends.

For retailers, these growth corridors provide an opportunity to build a loyal customer base as the community grows. We will continue to curate a retail mix, based on strong research and evidence, to suit the particular needs of each community.

Every year, Stockland measures what matters to our residents with the Liveability Index Survey so we can design our communities around what’s important to them and track their satisfaction. We know that when we deliver infrastructure and services – roads, parks and open spaces, and town centres – it drives resident satisfaction and the liveability score of our communities.

Beyond these projects, we have other opportunities for town centres, convenience, and health and medical services throughout our communities. We are in early planning for town centres at Aura in Caloundra, Queensland, and Cloverton in Melbourne.

Aura is one of the largest masterplanned communities in Australia – a 6 Star Green Star rated community, already home to more than 10,000 residents, with the potential to deliver around 19,000 new homes and 20,000 onsite jobs upon completion. Cloverton in Melbourne’s north is set to become Victoria’s largest masterplanned community with more than 2,000 residents already calling it home.

It’s an exciting time for Stockland as we optimise the performance of our established centres and set our sights on planning and developing new centres in our communities where we can build on our connection and understand of existing customers to continue to meet their needs.

We look forward to working with our partners in 2024.

If you're interested in learning more about leasing opportunities at a Stockland Town Centre, enquire today and one of our leasing executives will get in touch with you.