A highly anticipated retail precinct is creating more opportunities for shoppers and workers in the Illawarra as some of the country’s most popular stores open their doors within the new warehouse-sized spaces.
Officeworks held its grand opening at Albion Park Rail on Thursday (16 November) with dozens of new staffers keen to get started.
Among the most excited about the new store was the company’s CFO Brendan Hargreaves, who grew up in Balgownie and saw through his education in the Illawarra at Fairy Meadow Demonstration School, Keira High and then the University of Wollongong.
“I’m particularly proud to be standing here today and as a member of an organisation that supports the education of all Australians,” Brendan told the new team on their first official day.
“It is particularly fitting to be able to do it in front of my Mum and Dad, who gave up so much of their life to ensure that I had the best education that they could afford and they made sure that I realised how lucky I was to have the opportunities that their hard work and sacrifice allowed.
“If it was not for them and the educators of the Illawarra, I would not be standing here today.”
His parents were some of the first customers in the store, and Brendan said the two Shell Cove locals had been counting down and keeping track of its completion.
“When I first started at Officeworks, my Mum and Dad said to me ‘One of the first things you need to do Brendan when you take the new job is we need a store in the Shellharbour area’.
“I didn’t know it at the time, but they were just about to approve it before I started, so when I found out I called up Mum and Dad and said ‘I’ve got you a store!’
“Officeworks prides itself that we live in communities and we are part of those communities, and we don’t just want to put words on the page and say that we actually want to live and breathe that.”
The team has already given back to the community by donating $1000 in gift cards and $1000 cash to Balarang Public School and Clontarf Academy Kanahooka and Lake Illawarra.
The new store is also the first in the country to open with solar panels already operational to help improve sustainability.
Officeworks is not the only store that residents of southern Illawarra no longer have to travel to Wollongong for, with a new Spotlight now open in the retail park.
The 2400 sqm store stocks a wide range of products for the home, from kitchen, dining, home decor, bathroom, bedding, fabrics, sewing, party decorations and crafts.
“At Spotlight, we’re all about encouraging our customers to create, decorate and celebrate in their homes and we can’t wait to help the Albion Park community with all of their creative needs,” Spotlight CEO Quentin Gracanin said.
“Our new store will provide some exciting opportunities for our local community, the team have been overwhelmed by the warm welcome and enthusiasm from Albion Park locals.
“We have recruited over 40 new team members, and we look forward to continuing this trajectory across Australia.”
Camping and outdoor retailer Anaconda has also boosted the employment focus further south.
“We’re delighted to empower our local workforce with a variety of new roles. As we welcome new members to our team, we aspire to build a group of adventure enthusiasts dedicated to delivering unparalleled outdoor knowledge in Albion Park,” Anaconda Regional Manager Andrew Cornford said.
The opening of its new store hopes to target adventure enthusiasts as they head into the holiday season.
“The nature of the family holiday is shifting this year, with more and more Australians inspired to head on more outdoor adventures into their own backyard,” Anaconda Marketing Manager Shane Connors said.
The busy retail park just off the Princes Highway near Bunnings has been inundated with customers, with the extensive car park packed with residents eager to check out the range on offer at the new and relocated stores, which also include Petstock, Supercheap Auto, Autobarn, RSEA Safety and Sydney Tools.