Skelton not holding his breath over Wallabies future

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Departing Waratahs second-rower Will Skelton is not sure where his international career is at but says he wants to put his hand up whenever possible for the Wallabies, provided his Super Rugby performances improve.
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Skelton has signed a two-year deal with English Premiership side Saracens after spending two months with the London-based team following the Wallabies spring tour late last year.

Given Skelton has not played 60 or more Tests for his country, he will be unavailable for Wallabies duties in 2018 and the first half of 2019, meaning it is unlikely he will come into coach Michael Cheika’s Rugby World Cup calculations.

The 24-year-old has been grappling with the decision of whether to stay or go for a number weeks and says it came down to what was best for his family, even if the move may tarnish a potential Wallabies career for the time being.

“It was a massive decision to not be able to put the gold jersey on again or be able to put my hand up to put on the jersey again but that’s one we haven’t taken lightly,” Skelton told Fairfax Media. “The World Cup’s a massive thing in a rugby player’s career. I’ve been apart of one and I did half a tournament because I got injured. It’s a massive focus but at the end of the day, I put my family first in this decision. We chose as a family to go alone and experience life over there.”

Skelton said Cheika was “disappointed” at the news and there would be an increasing frustration on the part of the Wallabies boss at seeing so many of his star players leave n shores for the cash and experience of Europe.

However, Skelton has been told he will eligible for Wallabies selection in June and the Rugby Championship provided his form was up to scratch.

He can opt for an early release to join Saracens in time for the start of their season in September but that will be sorted out at a later date.

“Cheika was disappointed and who wouldn’t be if you’ve got guys going overseas?” Skelton said. “He’s coached me since I came into the league so I’ve learnt a lot from Cheik and Daryl [Gibson]. They’ve been my first Super Rugby coaches and I’ve learnt a lot and I’m thankful for what they’ve taught me.

“We’ll always keep in contact if that window or door does open. I’ll keep that door open to come back.

“Talking to Cheik he didn’t say it would affect anything. He’s going to pick the best players who are in form and who will do their part for the team so I’m always going to put my hand up there.”

Skelton refuted suggestions the signings of Rory Arnold, Adam Coleman and a number of other promising second-rowers had anything to do with his defection to Britain.

“Mate, to be honest that didn’t really come into it at all,” Skelton said. “We’ve been fighting for positions for the last two or three years and we’ve got healthy competition there within the Aussie ranks and we’re really building that depth we need in the lock position.

“Was it [for] financial [reasons]? No. It was a massive family decision for us to be out of our comfort zone. That was the main driver.

“I had a taste of it for that short stint and I enjoyed it. I got a feel for the place, got to know the boys and it made the decision a lot easier.”

Skelton has played 18 Tests for the Wallabies, with four of those caps coming in 2016.

Even if Cheika wanted to give the 203-centimetre giant another shot, Skelton says he needed to lift his game, starting with a big performance for NSW against the Hurricanes in Wellington on Friday.

“It begins with the Waratahs. I feel like I haven’t been playing good footy for the Tahs and that needs to happen if I want to stake a claim in the national team,” Skelton said. “I really need to perform for my team and I put my hand up week in week out to do that. The Hurricanes is my focus short-term.”

Cromwell lobs $3b bid for Investa Office Fund

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Cromwell Corporation has ended months of speculation by making an after-market close unsolicited, indicative, non-binding proposal for Investa Office Fund, valuing it about $3 billion.
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It comes as the Investa Listed Funds Management Limited independent directors are also in negotiations to acquire a 50 per cent stake in another related entity, Investa Office Management, along with the Investa Commercial Property Fund.

Cromwell bought its current 9.83 per cent stake in April 2016, which thwarted rival bidder Dexus, which itself made a cash offer for IOF in November 2015. Dexus’ cash offer went nowhere as a result.

It has been one the longest-running battles for control of a large asset fund in the real estate investment trust sector.

Under the proposal, Cromwell has offered a cash price of $4.85 per IOF unit, which is inclusive of (and on Cromwell’s assumption) an anticipated distribution of 10?? per IOF unit for the half year period ending June 30, 2017.

The proposal is subject to a number of conditions including undertaking due diligence.

The receipt of the proposal follows discussions with Cromwell, led by chief executive Paul Weightman, since November 2016.

The IOF independent directors have not yet formed a view on the merits of the proposed takeover.

IOF has one of the more enviable office portfolios, valued at about $4 billion, in the country, including towers at 126 Phillip Street and 420 George Street in Sydney and 567 Collins Street, Melbourne. They also own an office at 259 Queen Street in Brisbane.

According to CLSA analysts, “while we consider Investa a good office manager, we have reservations about the independence of Investa Listed Funds Management Limited board, in our view of the need to maintain funds under management across the platform, but hold judgment until we see the IOF’s final proposal”.

What has happened to MKR ‘bad boy’ Josh?

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If there was ever a moment for Seafood King Josh to plunge the filleting knife deep into the chests of nemeses Court and Duncan, it should have been tonight. But in a surprise turnaround for the almost absent “bad boy” of Broome, he proved a worthy and generous dinner companion.
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Everyone had high expectations of the Melbourne hipsters’ ultimate restaurant, Gastro Turf, especially Della and Tully. “I think we’re definitely going to see triple digits tonight,” says Tully. “I think they’re definitely going to finish on top,” agrees Della.

The pair are cooking at Court’s parents’ place in the Yarra Valley because they can’t fit everyone in their Richmond apartment. They seem slightly rattled at having to drive further to pick up their ingredients, however their menu is trendy and confident. Entree 1: Venison, smoked labne and blueberries. Entree 2: Snapper, asparagus and mussel butter.Main 1: Chicken, cauliflower rice and carrots. Main 2: Pepper berry kangaroo, with eggplant and spinach.Dessert 1: Goat’s cheese profiterole with thyme and honey. Dessert 2: Whiskey sour.

When the guests arrive, Court hugs everyone but Josh, who she tells can “come on through”.

Court: “I don’t feel like I really need to give Josh a big ol’ hug. I’m not about to fake some kind of embrace that I would not like to have,” she said. “I think it’s a mutual agreement,” laughed off Josh, who almost said more but decided not to.

“Going back to Gastro Turf I feel like it’s a lot better the second time ’round, just looking at the space, it just looks more like an art gallery instead of a trashy alley way.” Even Amy leads to the cheers to Court and Duncan’s restaurant. What are they up to?

On seeing the couple’s menu, the leaderboard’s rop dog Valarie fears the worst: “I hate to admit but I think they are going to pip us to the post tonight, dammit.”

“There is no way that these guys are going to be behind you, like you’ll still be at the bottom of the leaderboard, guaranteed,” Josh cockily delivers to crestfallen Mark and Chris, which would come as a huge surprise to Courts had she been present since she believes “Josh thinks we should go home”.

“Obviously the Seafood King has a strong opinion on that, but I think we have more of a chance than he’s giving us,” says Chris to the cameras. “Exactly, keep your opinions to yourself,” Mark privately retorts.

The entrees go really well and they score a perfect 10 from Pete Evans for the “bold and beautiful” venison, which Della and Tully “couldn’t fault”.

But if someone could find fault, surely it would be Josh. “Every so often I just grit my teeth together, I don’t know what it is. Initially I thought it was part of the venison part of the bone or something, there’s all these little blackberry seeds.” Welcome back, Josh.

“I’m not nit picking,” he tells the table, to unimpressed commentary by Betty (“hashtag nit picking”) – who he has been clashing with the most over critiques of late. “It’s just the blackberry seed, like as I’m actually eating it just kinda crunch and it just stops you enjoying your meal, it kinda puts the brakes on.” Nitpicking much Josh?#MKR#Josh#Nitpickingpic.twitter苏州夜网/pHIboLSqFN??? #MKR (@mykitchenrules) April 4, 2017It’s a problem when all your guests fall asleep at the table #MKR#CourtDuncanpic.twitter苏州夜网/TOyHHdvUdb??? #MKR (@mykitchenrules) April 4, 2017

Ixom signs anew at 1 Nicholson

Chemicals company Ixom has signed a lease on three floors of 1 Nicholson Street, Melbourne’s first glass skyscraper.
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The 18-storey building’s landlord Charter Hall’s Direct Office Fund did the deal directly with Ixom, formerly the chemicals arm of mining services company Orica.

The tower in the north-east fringe office precinct, designed by Bates Smart, was built for ICI in 1960. That firm changed its name to Orica in 1998 and sold the chemicals business to Blackstone in 2015.

Head of Charter Hall Direct Steven Bennett said Ixom, which had previously sublet through Orica, now had a direct eight-year lease with the landlord on 2750 square metres in the building.

“They wanted security with their own long-term lease,” said Mr Bennett, who declined to reveal the rent terms.

“Once tenants have got into the building they don’t want to leave. We haven’t had any empty space available in the building since 2003,” he said.

But for the first time in 14 years Charter Hall has three floors at the top of the building available.

Mining services company Arup is moving in the fourth quarter of 2018 to Lend Lease’s $2 billion Melbourne Quarter project at Docklands.

“They’re moving because they’ve outgrown the space,” he said.

“From our point of view it’s a great time to be in the market and we think we’ll set a new benchmark. We’ve had good interest so far,” he said.

Recent research from Cushman & Wakefield indicates Melbourne prime rents have grown 8.7 per cent in the past year to an average $373 a square metre with incentives remaining stable at 30 per cent.

The building has recently had a substantial upgrade with $4 million spent on the lifts and a further $500,000 on end-of-trip facilities.

The Direct Office Fund (DOF) has a $1.025 billion portfolio of 10 buildings, with 75 per cent of its property in Sydney and Melbourne, with Brisbane and Perth making up the balance.

It is open to investors and returns 6.25 per cent a year in income.The unlisted property fund is making a concerted pitch for new investors and is now accessible through a range of investment and superannuation platforms.

The East Melbourne office precinct is very tightly held and has a vacancy level of about 1.5 per cent compared with Melbourne’s CBD vacancy of 6.4 per cent. The area is close to parklands and serviced by several tram routes and Parliament station.

A few doors down from 1 Nicholson, St Vincent’s Hospital has leased 837 square metres at 486 Albert Road.

The hospital will take out level one of the Catholic Archdiocese of Melbourne’s St Patrick’s Centre, formerly the VECCI building.

The deal was done by JLL leasing agent Richard Norman at between $350 and $370 per square metre net for five years.

The hospital is shifting its administrative team to make way for the St Vincent’s Hospital’s Aikenhead redevelopment project, a biomedical engineering research and education centre.

McAfee rebranding creates pure-play cyber security company

Global cyber-security firm Intel Security has been renamed McAfee and now operates as an independent company, completing a split from Intel that was flagged in September.
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Intel continues to own 49 per cent of the new entity, which was valued at $US$4.2 billion ($5.5 billion). Private equity investors TPG and Thoma Bravo own the remaining 51 per cent.

Widely known for its antivirus software, US-based McAfee has more than 200 million customers and detects more than 400,000 new threats a day.

McAfee is installed on 300,000 devices across a range of n government agencies.

Corporate vice-president Brian Dye, who was in Canberra last week, said the spin-out delivered a pure-play cyber-security company with a strong focus on innovation.

Mr Dye said the separation involved back-end changes for McAfee, but for customers it was business as usual.

He described cyber security as “the most pressing technical issue of our time” and said the company’s strong focus was to automate protection.

“We have to free up the time of human beings because, until we do, this game won’t change,” he said.

“That’s why we want to be a stand-alone organisation, to bring the full force and focus to that problem.”

Mr Dye said McAfee would continue as a privately owned company but added there could be “opportunities in the future to go public or do a different strategic transaction”.

In news sure to disappoint founder John McAfee, who left the company in 1994, Mr Dye said a name change was considered but rejected.

In 2014 Mr McAfee said he was elated the business was being renamed Intel Security “freeing me from this terrible association with the worst software on the planet”.

Mr Dye said Mr McAfee had not been associated with the company for many years.”We looked at it very carefully,” he said.

“McAfee is a very well known and trusted brand. What we want to do is evolve a great brand, rather than spend a whole bunch of money on marketing.

“We’d rather spend our money on giving customers better security.”

Mr Dye said the company was striving for “day zero” protection.

“The vast majority of attacks are seen and have full fixes for them in two to four days after the original attack has happened,” he said.

“The challenge is how do we keep pushing day zero protection, something that no one has ever seen before.”

Mr Dye said this could be achieved through machine learning and building security on platforms.

“If we can engineer on a platform it’s easier for us to add new features and it’s easier for customers to adopt those new features,” he said.

“It doesn’t help us if we provide a great new technology that will solve today’s newest threat, and it takes customers 12 months to adopt it.

“In the speed of this market, and the speed with which attacks come and go and shift, customers have to be able to adopt things within weeks or months of when we produce them, not quarters or years.

“As you close one door the attackers try to open another one. It’s a never-ending cat-and-mouse game.”

Mr Dye said independent validation of McAfee’s strategy came from leading PC manufacturers, which ship the company’s antivirus software on new PCs.

“With machine-learning technology we take advantage of the fact we have hundreds of millions of users around the world on multiple platforms,” he said.

“We use the visibility from that to bake it into our learning algorithms and other updates that all our consumers get day in, day out without having any idea that it’s happening.

“We want them to explore safely and do their business safely when they need to without having to worry about cyber security.”

China will hand Trump the win he badly needs, says Mobius

SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA – APRIL 03: Mark Mobius, Executive chairman of Templeton emerging markets on April 3, 2017 in Sydney, . (Photo by Ben Rushton/Fairfax Media) Photo: Ben RushtonDonald Trump needs a win “badly” this week when he meets Xi Jinping, and the Chinese President will be more than happy to give it to him, says Mark Mobius, the world’s best known investor in emerging markets.
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The New York-born Mobius joined Templeton 30 years ago as president of the asset manager’s emerging markets fund, but his experience back a further decade, gives him an unparalleled depth of knowledge when it comes to this dynamic, diverse and volatile corner of the investment world.

Mobius, whose title is executive chairman of Franklin Emerging Markets Group, has twin bases in Hong Kong and Singapore. But he says he doesn’t regard either as a “home” as much as a place to hang his hat when he’s not travelling, which he does a lot. The 80-year-old investor still spends as many as 260 days of the year on the road.

And from his on-the-ground experience in the region, he says the view from Asia on the new American leader is more pragmatic than in the West.

“As we travel around and talk to business people, very often Trump is not uppermost in their minds,” Mobius says. “I think most of these people are practical – they know that when a politician says something, particularly in the US, it means nothing unless it’s acted upon.

“One of the things they like about Trump is that he’s a dealmaker, and they feel comfortable with that. I think the Chinese feel that way as well. They think that ‘well we can hold our own and we’ll be able to negotiate a deal with this guy – he’s not dogmatic’.”

It’s in this context – Trump as a negotiator – that this week’s meeting between Jinping and his American counterpart is of particular significance.

“This meeting in Florida with Xi Jinping will be very, very important,” Mobius says. “It’s on everybody’s mind.”

Mobius believes the Chinese “have to come up with something that is positive for Trump”.

After the recent Congressional defeat of his healthcare legislation, Trump “needs success badly” from this week’s meeting between the two leaders. And Xi will be happy to give him one, Mobius says. What would a win for Trump look like?

“It would look like the Chinese saying that they are going to allow more American imports into China in certain categories, and it would also mean the Chinese would make investments in American manufacturing, in coal mining, in automobiles – things that Trump is talking about.

“And they’ll promise to hire more workers. From China’s point of view it’s peanuts; put a $1 billion in American manufacturing, what’s the big deal?

“I may be completely off base here, but that’s what I expect,” Mobius says.

Mobius points to the corporate “feelers”, which have already been put out. In January, Foxconn Technology Group’s chairman talked about a joint investment with Apple for a display-making facility in the US, although Apple has since apparently kiboshed the plan. Also in January, Alibaba boss Jack Ma said he would create 1 million new US jobs and help American companies export to China. What does China get?

“Peace,” Mobius says.

He points to the work of Michael Pillsbury, who he says is one of the policy voices to whom Trump listens, and in particular Pillsbury’s book, “The 100-year Marathon: China’s Secret Strategy to Replace America as the Global Superpower”.

“Pillsbury says the Chinese will not confront the US at this stage; they want a very peaceful, smooth international relations to allow them to build up their economy to the point where they surpass the US economy and then they say, ‘OK guys, we are in charge’.

“I think he’s right.”

The “sensitive areas” are around the South China Sea and North Korea, where Trump has recently threatened to “go it alone” to confront the pariah nation should the Chinese not help.

“But I think these issues are peripheral for Trump,” Mobius says. “The real issue is he wants to be re-elected, and if he doesn’t start delivering on his campaign promises he’s in trouble.”

Mobius thinks Trump would have experience dealing with Asian business people through his real estate deals and gambling operations. “You must remember that when you are running a casino you have a lot of Chinese customers,” he says.

He tells an anecdote of a wealthy Chinese businessman who bought an apartment in Trump Towers.

“He said that [Trump] would come around every month and invite him out for lunch or dinner to see if things were OK, so he got to know these people,” Mobius says. It’s also through this conversation that Mobius learnt that Trump tipped an amount equal to the bill.

Six childcare centres up for grabs

A portfolio of six newly developed Victorian childcare centres offered to the market for the first time are expected to fetch $50 million.
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The centres scattered across Melbourne’s middle suburbs from Point Cook in the west to Ashwood in the east have been developed by Bamfa Properties and LR & EC Enterprises, property records show.

Key attributes of childcare centres – stable long-term leases arrangements underpinned by guaranteed government-supported fees – have made them an investment market darling and keenly sought after.

Most of the centres in Ashwood, Hughesdale, Blackburn North, Point Cook, Carnegie and Mentone have 20-year leases to ASX listed G8 Education, Guardian Early Learning and Nino Early Learning Adventures.

The rapid expansion of institutional players like Goodstart (formerly ABC Learning Centres), Folkestone Education Trust, G8, Arena REIT and Affinity Education Group has also fuelled investor interest in the sector.

Marketing agents Savills ‘s Julian Heatherich said there was a shortage of good investment stock and “nothing like this has been put to market” for some time.

Mr Heatherich said he expected the centres to be sold individually or as one line to institutional investors.

Finding sites in middle-ring suburbs to construct childcare centres was a “difficult” task, he said.

Yields for stand-alone centres have sharpened significantly with all Victorian centres sold since February 2016 achieving sub 6.5 per cent yields, and in several cases near 5 per cent.

A childcare centre in Sayers Road Tarneit sold for $3.7 million on a yield of 4.96 per cent in September last year. Another in Berwick sold three months later for $3.425 million on a yield of 5.44 per cent.

The most recent sale in Pakenham achieved $5.12 million with a yield of 6.24 per cent.

Department of Education and Training data shows an estimated 1.67 million children attended approved care in 2015???16 with about $7.3 billion spent by governments on childcare fee assistance.

The federal government recently pushed through legislative reforms for the Child Care Benefit and Child Care Rebate to replace them with one means-tested payment called the Child Care Subsidy.

Under the changes families earning less than $65,000 a year will get a subsidy up to 85 per cent of their costs. The rate for families earning more than that, but less than $340,000, will gradually taper to 20 per cent.

Vita shares tumble on back of leaked Telstra document

A leaked internal Telstra document has revealed the telco giant is considering taking back control of some of its store network, potentially clashing with its major retail partner Vita Group.
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Vita shares tumbled on the news, closing 21 per cent down at $2.54.

Eleven of the identified stores are operated by listed company Vita Group, which is Telstra’s only Master Licensed Dealer and operates just over 100 of Telstra’s 350 stores around the country.

Vita released a statement to the market on Tuesday noting that conversations with Telstra are confidential.

“Telstra and Vita Group have enjoyed a strategic relationship for 22 years, presently governed by a Master License Agreement, which applies to all of Vita Group’s Telstra stores,” the company stated.

“The Master Licence Agreement has been extended a number of times, and currently extends to 2020.”

“The terms of the Master License Agreement are confidential and any significant changes to it are subject to mutual agreement.”

Internally,Telstra has identified 16 stores it believes would be more profitable if they were brought back into the Telstra Shop Network, because it would no longer have to pay sales commissions to licensees. It could take back control by not renewing the Telstra Dealership Agreement [TDA] with licensees, according to the document.

A Telstra spokesman said the document was only an “internal draft developed for discussion purposes”.

However, if Telstra goes ahead with these plans it would reduce by one tenth the number of Vita-operated Telstra stores.

This includes five stores in NSW – Macarthur Square, Tuggerah, Hornsby, Rouse Hill and Erina Fair – three in Western , Rockingham, Success and Midland Gate, and Queensland’s Chermside and Northlakes stores, and the Werribee dealership in Victoria.

“There are 16 identified stores to buy back which meet the ‘no regrets’ criteria,” the leaked document states. The ‘no-regrets’ criteria include being located in a major metropolitan shopping centre, if the regional director approves of the move, and if the store is likely to have a positive operating cash flow if it is part of the Telstra Shop Network rather than paying commissions to a dealer.

Telstra spokesman Steve Carey said “the document in question is an internal draft developed for discussion purposes only”.

“It does not reflect the viability of any of the stores listed, and no decisions can be taken on individual Vita sites due to the nature of the agreement,” he said.

“There are no current plans to amend our arrangement with the Vita Group. All conversations with Vita and individual licensees are confidential.”

He added Telstra regularly reviews its store footprint and licensee arrangements.

“The agreement we have in place with all our licensees clearly states when changes can be made and the process we must follow,” Mr Carey said.

The document noted the TDA non-renewal is underway at the independent dealership at Fountain Gate, believed to be the dealership on level two of the Westfield shopping centre.

The remaining four stores are independent dealerships in Robina, Qld; Joondalup, WA; and two in the Westfield mall in Carindale, Qld. iFrameResize({enablePublicMethods : true, heightCalculationMethod : “lowestElement”,resizedCallback : function(messageData){}, checkOrigin: false},”#pez_iframeA”);

In November 2016 Vita Group’s share price dropped 13 per cent in one day, from $4.71 to $4.09, on rumours Telstra was trying to cut dealer commissions in the latest round of negotiations. At its half year results Vita announced a 19 per cent increase in earnings but warned there will be “some softening of profitability” because a new remuneration structure has been introduced.

Vita operates stores for Telstra, FoneZone, One Zero Communications, and Sprout and recently launched SQDAthletica. It earns money from selling products and also receives commissions whenever customers sign up to a plan.

At an analyst briefing in November, Vita’s chief executive, Maxine Horne, who owns nearly 17 per cent of Vita shares, said Vita’s agreement with Telstra covereds all stores and expires in August 2020. She was asked if Kevin Russell’s appointment as Telstra’s group executive retail meant the telco would corporatise its store network, as Mr Russell had done at Optus.

She replied that there “hasn’t been any discussion and my response to that [is] it’s highly unlikely”.

Gen Z attracted to social bricks-and-mortar shops

Offering the on-trend clothes with an internet option to collect and providing a social meeting place, will always entice the Gen Z spenders into a physical shop, according to AMP Capital’s 2017 Recommended Retail Practice report.
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The increase in men shopping, that was borne out in last year’s report, particularly the rise in “manscaping” with hipster barbers and grooming retailers, has continued, but the age of the male shoppers has lowered, with 46 per cent of male “Future Shoppers” saying they are more interested in staying ahead of popular trends than 36 per cent of their female counterparts.

Moving in packs is also a preferred shopping option, with the survey revealing 56 per cent of male Future Shoppers are more confident when shopping with others compared to 29 per cent of male “Current Shoppers”. Gen Z is defined between the age of about 18 to 22.

This is being reflected in shopping centres when they are redeveloped. They are moving back to being a town centre format where younger shoppers can socialise and shop together.

A desire for an experience is also high on the list for the next generation, as evidenced by the rise in sales and numbers of stores by cosmetic retailers, where the shoppers can have a personalised customer experience that’s exclusive to in-store. This was a focus when AMP upgraded its Pacific Fair shopping centre on the Gold Coast.

The report, From A to Gen Z: Shopping with the Future Generation, found that 87 per cent of n Future Shoppers like or love shopping in-store compared to 79 per cent who like or love to shop online.

The report confirms that the future of traditional shopping in bricks-and-mortar stores remains strong but retailers need to adapt their in-store experience to continue to engage with their changing consumers, particularly the tech-savvy Future Shoppers.

The managing director of AMP Capital Shopping Centres, Mark Kirkland said engaging with the internet is a key opportunity for driving stronger sales in-store as the platform plays an influential role throughout Gen Z’s shopping experience.

“The findings of the 2017 RRP report are significant as it confirms that the future of retail is bright, with a range of new opportunities at our fingertips,” Mr Kirkland said.

“The research highlights the importance of developing fun, social experiences in-store and the opportunities that emerge once brands and retailers align their online and offline offerings. AMP Capital’s RRP report also confirms ns are ethical shoppers, who are willing to invest in sustainable brands, and that male Future Shoppers are the new trendsetters when it comes to fashion.”

Mir Kirkland said another strong trend is for sustainable and ethical retailing, with close to 70 per cent of both Future and Current Shoppers preferring brands that give back to society.

“We saw that 59 per cent of Future Shoppers agreed they would pay more for sustainable products compared to 48 per cent of Current Shoppers.,” Mr Kirkland said.

The real cost of your plastic wrapped vegetables

It’s no secret that the German discount supermarket Aldi does not provide single-use plastic bags at the checkout.
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Instead the supermarket offers large multi-use bags for 15 cents a pop, in line with its support for “a complete ban on single use plastic bags.”

On the surface it is a responsible policy, which goes one better than those of rivals Coles and Woolworths, who still issue complimentary single-use bags with every purchase.

But as any Aldi shopper would know, the push away from plastic does not extend storewide.

Aldi, along with Coles and Woolworths, makes liberal use of plastic packaging in its fresh produce section, much to the chagrin of environmentally conscious shoppers.

A waste initiative launched by the Environment Protection Authority in 2015 found 217 NSW supermarkets disposed of more 230 tonnes of plastic film and wrap, an average of one tonne per supermarket, per year.

Pre-diced onions in sealed plastic bags, chopped mushrooms in plastic trays, cucumbers and zucchinis beneath a tight layer of cling wrap. You want it – ‘s supermarkets have it.

Executive director of the Total Environment Centre Jeff Angel describes it as “marketing gone mad.”

“It’s socially irresponsible. This level of convenience is not [necessary],” he said.

“Marine plastic pollution is a world crisis and the concentration around n waters is alarming.”

A Fairfax Media survey of the produce section of an inner Sydney Coles, Woolworths and Aldi, found similarities in their use of plastic packaging.

Coles and Woolworths stocked almost identical offerings of their fruits and vegetables in every form: loose (with plastic freezer bags available), sealed in bags, laid on styrofoam or plastic trays and wrapped in cling wrap, or in plastic punnets.

For example Coles offered loose Royal Gala apples for $2 a kilo, as well a one-kilogram plastic bag of apples for the same price.

Tomatoes were also offered loose, on a tray with plastic wrap, sealed in a bag or in a punnet.

At Woolworths, capsicums, potatoes, corn and cauliflower could also be purchased loose, wrapped on a tray, or sealed in a bag.

Aldi offered a range of wrapped and unwrapped fruits and vegetables, while others could not be purchased without packaging; namely zucchini, kiwi fruit, corn, carrots and mushrooms.

Kale could not be purchased at any of the three stores without plastic wrap, while eggplant was one of the only vegetables consistently offered without packaging at all three stores.

An Aldi spokeswoman said it was investigating best practice in plastic packaging.

“Aldi’s most recent response to the n Packaging Covenant’s requirements…includes the development of Sustainable Packaging Guidelines [for] our exclusively branded products.”

Professor Gay Hawkins from Western Sydney University said the image of pre-peeled vegetables “on a tray covered in glad wrap” symbolised the “over-packaged world”.

Her current research project, ‘The Skin of Commerce’ attempts to explore the history and role of plastic packaging in .

“Getting data on this in is really, really hard. But it seems it was really the 1970s when plastic started to take off,” she said.

“Pre-World War II plastic was seen as a kind of inferior substitute???a fake material. Then with the development of thermoplastics, which can be stretched and moulded…it became applied to every area of life.”

Professor Hawkins said the proliferation of plastic was a problem for industry, which needed to “completely rethink its relationship” with the material.

A Coles spokeswoman said packaging was required to maintain freshness and food safety, and most trays used were made of “full recyclable” PET.

At Woolworths packaging is also used for food preservation, while any new recyclable packaging options were required to meet existing food safety standards.

“…Polystyrene trays in our produce organics supply network [have been] converted to compostable trays or recyclable plastic,” a spokesman said.

Both Coles and Woolworths are party to the closed loop REDcycle program, which allows customers to return plastic bags and packets to the store to be recycled.

Chief executive officer of the n Packaging Covenant Trish Hyde said n retailers were “actively pursuing” sustainable alternatives.

“This is the biggest challenge we have. Plastic in some respects offers more than other forms…but it is harder to recycle in many circumstances.”

The tiny Melbourne suburb that almost didn’t exist

Tiny Melbourne suburbs that pack a punchWhere you can’t buy a house for under $1mMap shows boom in $1m median suburbs
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Deepdene is to Balwyn what Cremorne is to Richmond, a neighbourhood which became its own suburb, but kept the postcode.

Deep pockets are required to live here, equal with Canterbury as the second most expensive suburb behind Toorak. The tiny breakaway suburb ??? which only became a suburb in 2010 after a local campaign??? is just one square kilometre in size, but packs a property punch with a median house price of $2.6 million, according to Domain Group data.

Boosting that was a $6.36 million sale last April of a five-bedroom resort-style period home with tennis court at 16 Barnsbury Road. It was snapped up by a Chinese buyer on an investor visa. The auction showed the clamour to claim a piece of the idyllic surrounds, and another shift in the area’s demographic.

It’s part of a Liberal party stronghold, with the Labor party failing to have a look-in since federal seat Kooyong was drawn up in 1900. Like many parts of Melbourne, Deepdene’s name is a nostalgic nod to the mother country. It shares its title with a country estate near London because of the similarity of the magnificent views at both places.

Before the area’s high ground was taken over by Robert Reid, it was an Aboriginal lookout and a camping ground. Two of Melbourne’s best known Aboriginal identities, Bill Onus and singer Harold Blair, lived in Deepdene in the 50s and 60s, leading the campaign for a “yes” vote in the 1967 referendum on Aboriginal recognition.

A dene is defined as the deep wooded valley of a river. Though there’s no river running though the Melbourne version, English aesthetics abound with stack-stoned homes, cottage gardens and concrete streets.

Single occupancy zoning and village greens, used for sport, create a sense of space for the 2100 people who call it home. Deepdene Footy Club used a local three-hectare park after fielding teams in 1911, with the side inspiring such loyalty that one vice-captain travelled from Ballarat to play for five years.

About the same time, students at the primary school (still a drawcard) would stand on a rail fence to wave to the engine driver of the Deepdene dasher, on the outer circle line.

The train’s gone, but the gum-lined Anniversary Circuit walking trail is another chance to exhale in a haven inside a 10 kilometre radius of the CBD.

But residents are anything but relaxed about threats to their tightly-held dwellings. In heritage-overlaid Reid Estate, owners of Tudor homes with low-fenced front yards all know each other’s names. Many have been there for decades and have banded together to protect their patch and fight institutional creep.

“The war is on to make sure houses are not rolled by a school car park,” explained Victoria Nicholls, from resident action group, HO192.

But the battle to preserve character has been lost in other parts of Deepdene, where bulldozers have made way for faux-chateaus and Neo-Georgians.

Charming original streetscapes have been disrupted by boundary-bursting McMansions. The precinct’s generous blocks make it magnetic to investors, eager to have proximity to Melbourne’s elite private schools.

Local councillor Felicity Sinfield says her biggest frustration is that she can’t do enough to protect character.

“I’m hamstrung by the state government’s policy,” she says, referring to the recently released Plan Melbourne strategy, which looks at long term land use and infrastructure

The push is on to make Deepdene’s strip shops a lively hub for locals and a destination for visitors. The revival of the bygone bustle is beginning with a couple of coffee shops, a Pho restaurant and Postino serving up a popular prosciutto pizza. There’s still a straight-laced sparseness though, perhaps the remnants of the long established alcohol ban in the leafy eastern belt.

The tram along Whitehorse Road, once horse-drawn, now takes passengers to the CBD in 40 minutes. Just as well, because traffic connector Burke Road moves at a snail’s pace. The 109 stops outside “The Providore”, a paddock-to-plate cafe decorated with a striking two-storey “Tree of Life” mural, the type more common in Deepdene’s artistic northern neighbours.

Owner Clare Voitin aims to make her business a welcoming meeting point, serving “what a mum would feed her kids”. She is well aware of the shift in her surrounds, especially in land value since settling 12 years ago. “Since we’ve bought here, things have gone crazy. There’s been dramatic change in the area,” Voitin says.

Real Estate Institute of Victoria data shows a 56 per cent rise in per square metre land value over the past seven years, to $3,678. Sport, schools & postcode pride have tightened the community, but Voitin is now using food as a way for people to know the person they live next to.

Her husband remembers fruit orchards in the area and Clare is rekindling old-fashioned country sentiments like street greetings and sharing produce. To reconnect residents, she’s promoting public gardens and has started a food swapping program where 10 neighbours plant vegetables, fruit trees and herbs, to feed each other organically for a year.

She’s “hellbent” on maintaining the close-knit community which made Deepdene attractive in the first place.

Walker Corp kicks off $2b Parramatta project

Walker Corporation has moved a step closer to the rejuvenation of the $2 billion Parramatta Square precinct with the appointment of Mainland Civil to do the civil works.
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The evolution of Parramatta will also see the construction of The Lennox, a new $400 million mixed-use development at 12 Phillip Street.

The 47-level project is being developed via a project delivery agreement in conjunction with City of Parramatta and PCC DevCo1, a company initially established by LIDIS Group, with development management by EQ Projects.

The launch of The Lennox signifies the next step in the rejuvenation and growth of Parramatta, with the project totalling 5500 square metres of retail space and 441 luxury residences.

The 6300 sq m metre riverfront site, at the junction of the historic Lennox Bridge and Church Street dining and shopping precinct, will also include a 120m boardwalk to improve connectivity and activate the riverfront.

A Parramatta Square, first stage of works unlocks the precinct and enables Walker to deliver the first two of four major buildings, which have been pre-committed to National Bank for 42,000 sq m and Property New South Wales for 63,000 sq m.

The first two buildings will be delivered in 2019 and 2020, as well as a public domain of 6000 sq m. The final two buildings will be delivered mid-2021.

Walker Corporation chairman Lang Walker said the start of the earthworks is a commitment to deliver on “our promise to council, our tenants and the Parramatta community”.

“The first stage of delivery has been driven by our tenants and the demand for industry-leading office space that caters to the needs of Parramatta’s future workforce and it’s growing population of young, highly educated individuals,” Mr Walker said.

Walker Corporation is also working closely with Sydney Transport for NSW to facilitate a state-of-the-art rail station connection, providing access for commuters from the station directly through the base of the towers into the public domain and 3000 sq m of retail space, and the north of the central business district of Parramatta.

Conceived by award-winning architects Johnson Pilton Walker (JPW), the first two buildings (3 and 4) have been designed with a focus on workforce health, well-being and productivity in order to raise efficiency and inspire creativity.

According to the head of residential at Savills , Ged Rockliff, new developments like The Lennox come at a time when property prices in Parramatta are outperforming the average growth seen across Sydney.

“Property values in Parramatta have experienced strong growth over the past decade, with apartment prices increasing by 118 per cent but it remains a more affordable option when compared to central Sydney,” Mr Rockliff said.

The Lennox team has collaborated with Marchese Partners on the interior architectural design and Lorena Gaxiola on the interiors

Coles kills life insurance offer

Supermarket giant Coles once described selling life insurance as a “natural progression” for the business.
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But the Wesfarmers-owned chain has quietly stopped selling life insurance, amid an apparent move away from financial services under Coles boss John Durkan.

“It [life insurance] was announced with a bit of fanfare, but it never really realised its potential,” said one person familiar with the decision. “It’s well publicised that Durkan is not a fan of financial services within a retail environment.”

Coles started selling life insurance in May 2014, promoting coverage for as little as $1 a week and promising to beat a direct life insurer’s price on comparable premiums.

Price matching is unusual and challenging for life insurers because policies are designed to be priced to the individual’s health risks.

Coles’ then finance director Rob Scott, “Through our home and car insurance offerings, Coles has already helped thousands of families save hundreds of dollars each year, and we think life insurance should be no different.”

Mr Scott, who is now deputy chief executive of Wesfarmers, had said that financial services were a great way to leverage the company’s brand, distribution and analytics as well as create “stickier” customers.

In response to Fairfax Media’s inquiries, Coles said, “As part of a regular review of our product portfolio, Coles ceased distributing life insurance products on 1 January.

“From this date, Coles Life Insurance customers who hold a current policy became MetLife customers.

“MetLife, which has backed Coles Life Insurance policies since their launch, has provided these customers with continuation of cover and no changes have been made to the product as a result of Coles exiting life insurance. The process for customer queries and claims is also unchanged.”

Coles rejected suggestions it never had more than 5000 policyholders, and that it had a very high proportion of people agreeing to buy a policy over the phone and then not proceeding.

Coles continues to sell car, home and landlord insurance, as well as credit cards.

Car, home and landlords are simpler products than life insurance, with lower regulatory risks and fewer competitors. Suncorp and IAG have about 80 per cent of the market in home and car insurance.

Rival Woolworths has sold insurance products – car, home, landlords, pet, life, travel and funeral – since 2012 and said it had no plans to stop selling life insurance.

The life insurance sector has been hit with rising claims, expensive premiums and negative perceptions of the industry after the scandal that engulfed the Commonwealth Bank’s insurance arm, CommInsure over the use of outdated medical definitions to deny claims.

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