Tuesday, 21 Sep 2021

Covid 19 Delta outbreak: Auckland’s Friedlander family cuts shop, hospitality rents by 80%

While the rest of New Zealand prepares for shops to re-open under level 3 alert from Wednesday, one of Auckland’s biggest retail and hospitality landlords will cut rents by up to 80 per cent for shop, cafe and restaurant tenants.

Daniel Friedlander of the multibillion-dollar Samson Corporation business said today he planned to contact tenants later today to offer them discounts of 80 per cent because they had been shut for so long.

“It’s about doing the right thing. Tenants are beside themselves. They really are and I understand that. This is small New Zealand retail and hospo. We will support them but some hard decisions will be made,” Friedlander said.

Property records show Samson Corporation owns 138 properties in Mt Eden, Ponsonby, Epsom, Grey Lynn, Onehunga, Three Kings, Mt Roskill, Sandringham, Kingsland, Grafton, Penrose, New Lynn, Eden Terrace and Auckland Central.

Friedlander particularly cited the Richmond Rd shops as an area where Samson owns a number of retail and hospitality business premises that have had to remain shut in this lockdown, with no end in sight.

“We’ve made a decision to support our retailers in the same way as we did before,” he said today.

The Samson director and the chief executive of the business has been reluctant to discuss any rent arrangements with tenants, previously saying they were commercially confidential arrangements.

But today he said so many were struggling that Samson was prepared to offer many an 80 per cent rent reduction. How many millions Samson would lose as a result was not something he wanted to talk about.

He said that wasn’t relevant.

He is waiting till 4pm this afternoon to hear how long Auckland might remain at level 4 alert “and then I will send an email to them with the rental abatement”.

That would backdate the discount of up to 80 per cent from the lockdown’s start on August 18, he said.

Office or commercial tenants would receive no discounts.

“Not commercial, because they are being able to pivot,” Friedlander said, referring to their ability to continue in business by working away from premises they rent.

Last May, tenants praised Samson for 80 per cent rent cuts.

Grey Lynn tenants praised the business established by Sir Michael Friedlander, saying not only was his rent cut by “thousands” but he knew of others who enjoyed the same benefits.

Jacob Faull, of the organic clothing and products shop Nature Baby which has premises at 433 Richmond Rd, West Lynn, said last year of Samson Corp: “They’ve been amazing. It was just what we needed. The architecture they develop is amazing, any time we have a problem they fix it up.”

Today Faull said the business had 40 staff, including 20 at the head office who were working remotely from home. Store staff were not working. The business had stores in Grey Lynn, Newmarket and Wellington.

“It’s a tough time of the year for us because we have all our supplier payments due and this is when our higher volume of sales usually happen. On the positive side, because we’ve been here before we know how to work remotely.

“The retail teams are working on training remotely,” he said.

He is forecasting an upswing in sales post-lockdown. Baby essentials were still able to be sold from his company via a third-party warehouse which was approved as an essential service.

“That has really saved us. We don’t have to run our own warehouse,” he said.

The Grey Lynn premises were rented from a Samson entity.

Three out of four Nature Baby premises had rent reductions “and the Friedlanders are one of many to be doing that and to be honest are pretty great landlords in terms of the fairness of the situation”.

But not all tenants feel like that.

One office tenant said no discounts had been offered to her and she fears her business will not survive.

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