Big data is set to play a key role in a bitter spat between Woolworths, Mosman Council whose mayor is opposed to a new Woolworths retail outlet, and an activist group Called Mosman Village Community who one resident said, “oppose anything new”.
At local Balmoral and Mosman coffee shops where the issue is subject of the day, opinions are divided and in a straw poll taken by ChannelNews more than 60% said that they would support a Woolworths on the condition that the building was “aesthetically designed”.
During the past two years Woolworths has quietly spent millions buying a string of properties around the Mosman RSL, speculation has it that they will also end up buying the property that houses the Westpac Bank as Westpac has decided to downgrade their Mosman operation to a new smaller location.
Another building that could come into play is the Mosman Club,
While no offer has been made for the building that houses the RSL club insiders at the popular Mosman Club believe that the objectors have already started taking out membership in an effort to stack any membership vote in the future.
Woolworths who moved last week to launching a new instore display network with the same big data being shown to Mosman Council believe they can deliver a retail outlet that fits into the community.
Observers believe that the Mosman Council fight could take more than two years and that Woolworths are “in it for the long haul”.
The objectors claim they already have 1,500 supporters, they are also distributing images that Woolworths insiders claim are nothing like what the proposed store could look like.
Shown below is one of the images being used on the Mosman Village Community Action Group web site.
They are also soliciting visitors to their online site to join the Mosman RSL Club “If you’re not already a member, you can support the Mosman Club and Mosman Village by joining. It’s only $10 for the first year or $25 for the first 3 years” their web site claims.
This is not the first time that Woolworths has had a run in with Mosman Council, after spending $600,000 in legal fees and after initially winning one round the Council finally lost in a fight over a new Dan Murphy liquor outlet on Military Road which the activist group and select Mosman Councillors said would cause congestion, traffic problems and was “not the type of retail outlet that Mosman wanted”.
“This has not turned out to be the case. The underground car park that was provided has been more than adequate, business is good, and the people of Mosman are supporting the outlet with their patronage” said a Woolworths source.
At a recent briefing of Mosman Councillors Woolworths executives relayed on big data analysis to justify their case for a retail outlet. They told Mayor Carolyn Corrigan who was quoted last week in the Australian Financial Review that she has not made her mind up about the development that the retailer had a vast amount of data about where the residents of Mosman shop.
Among both Councillors and those for and against the proposed development the fighting has already got bitter.
As for the Mayor having not made up her mind this also also appears to be an issue among Councillors.
“This is not the case claims” Claims Councillor Libby Moline who is opposed to the Woolworths development “She (refering to the Mayor Corrigan) is against the development”.
The Council were shown data that revealed that 70% of Mosman residents shopped outside of Mosman.
This claims supporters of the supermarket is because retailers in Mosman are charging “up to double what a Woolworths or Coles” are charging for goods.
Currently either side of Military Road where the development is being planned is littered with ‘For lease’ signs and closed retail outlets, some say it’s because Mosman residents are fed up of being over charged “simply because of the locality” and “the profile” of residents who live there, the retailers claim that the rents being asked were “excessive”.
“Mosman residents recognise value and want value” said one coffee drinker while another claims that what Woolworths will deliver is “An eyesore”
The objectors have already invested in bringing on board their own spin specialists with the appointment of Australian Public Affairs who are claiming that the 1,500 objectors are already a “powerful lobby group”.
One Councillor claims the list includes all those people who have registered on the site to simply find out what the objectors are doing.
“This includes Woolworths supporters, RSL members, Woolworths managers and their advisors” and that the list is significantly “over inflated”.
One of the supporters of the activist group is former Mosman Mayor Peter Abelson who believes that changes to State Planning Laws was the only reason that Woolworths got their way with the Dan Murphy store development.
Abelson was also Mayor when his Council voted to sell Council land that is today the Mosman Bridgepoint Shopping Centre where IGA, Aldi and Harris Farm is located.
Now he is objecting to a proposed Woolworths store.
What has emerged is that residents are not prepared to be identified as supporting or opposing the Woolworths supermarket which is also tipped to include a Big W element.
One supporter said “Mosman has a lot of bored retirees who attach themselves to an issue. They did it with the voting in of Zali Steggal and that got them nowhere. Residents went from having a former Prime Minister to represent them Federal Parliament to now having a struggling barrister who has no say or ability to bring influence for the seat of Warringah”.
“They added, what the Council should be doing is asking Woolworths how they can work with the retailer to deliver a win win, situation for both sides”.
“If the Council works with Woolworths on developing an atheistically pleasing design and layout with individual outlets such as a bakery, fish shop, butchers, as well as underground parking, I believe Mosman residents who are fed up of battling traffic and high prices and limited choice in Mosman will support the development”.
Some objectors believe that a Council owned car park next to the RSL will prevent Woolworths from getting what they want. However, investigations by ChannelNews has revealed that there is a right of way and easement across the car park that will work in Woolworths favour.
The action group have drafted a letter that they want objectors to the Woolworths Development to send to Mosman Council by next Wednesday.
It states that the writer is opposed to a large-scale retail outlet that they claim will destroy the local character and undermine residential amenity with significantly increased traffic congestion and a reduction in the variety of shops.
They are urged to support Council in the changing of planning controls to limit the size of retail premises to only allow small local shops in Mosman Junction and Mosman Village. Small shops better service the needs of our community in a competitive traditional low-rise shopfront environment, the draft claims.
One Councillor said “We now have a mayor who wants to limit shop sizes without any regard to the profitability of a retail outlet. Military road is already littered with small sized shops that have gone broke. For every one that has left Mosman or gone broke there is another 50% who are still trading that are struggling or close to going broke. The Council elections are 12 months away and this will be the Mayor’s swann song and big election issue” they claimed.
“This is an insane over reaction” they added.
Recently Harris Farm moved to significantly expand their retail outlet in Mosman after Aldi moved in right next to their retail outlet.
The Aldi shop has proved to be a “Big success” according to management with locals including many of the people who belong to the Mosman Village Community not only shopping there as opposed to the strip shops along Military Road but arriving early to snap up Aldi specials including ski gear, TV’s and tools one observer claimed.
This is another reason why Woolworths want to have a retail outlet in Mosman an observer claimed.
‘Their Neutral Bay store is one of the most successful in the Country and the most profitable and they want to introduce one in Mosman because they have the data from store purchases in Neutral Bay that show that Mosman residents want a local shop and will support a local shop and that it will be highly succesful” they added.