New Zealand’s Leading Shopping Centres

Shopping centres are big business for New Zealanders, with the retail sector contributing 7% of the country’s GDP, and a sizeable chunk of our retail spending taking place in shopping centres. The shopping centres in this report produce a combined turnover of more than $5 billion a year, or 10% of New Zealand’s ‘core’ retail sales.

In this issue of the Retail Examiner, we analyse 32 major shopping centres across the country, and share these results. The centres we focus on are those over 20,000m², or those that are the largest in their respective cities or towns.
We have not included large format retail centres, as these will be covered in a future edition of the Retail Examiner. This is our third review of shopping centres in New Zealand – the first of which was conducted in 2008 and then again in 2009.
RCG is no stranger to the shopping centre industry. Our chairman Paul Keane was a shopping centre manager in the late 1960s and is now recognised as a leader in the industry. Paul is currently a judge for the Property Council of New Zealand’s property awards, while RCG director Desmond Wai sits on the New Zealand Council of Shopping Centres.
This research has been a major undertaking, involving visits to each centre and the collection of an extensive body of data about each of the centres rated.
This research is a comprehensive study of New Zealand shopping centres and the results not only reveal the difference between top-performing and less effective centres, but will also provide valuable insights that will be of particular value for a wide range of industry groups and people.
Shopping centres come in a range of shapes and sizes, and they serve different functions – at one end of the spectrum, there are ‘neighbourhood centres’ made up of a supermarket and a handful of shops. At the other end, ‘regional centres’ that can have multiple supermarkets and department stores, over a hundred specialty stores, cinemas and more. In light of this we have divided the centres into three categories, medium weight, heavy weight and super heavy weight. From these we have titled a supreme winner as the leading centre from each rank.
Access a print friendly PDF of this report here.

Shopping Centres and the Economy

The last few years have been tough for retailers, and a lot of the economic news has been bad. We are now into our fifth year of negative or low economic growth. Profits have fallen, staff hours have been cut, and there have been a number of casualties – Kooky Fashions in June is a good example. 

Given the tough conditions, most New Zealand shopping centres have done well. Good quality centres have kept vacancies to a minimum, and rents have been fairly steady. In ‘real’ terms, rents have fallen, because inflation hasn’t stood still. For a large number of centres, sales per square metre have been impacted.

The Criteria

We have assessed shopping centres on twenty different criteria, including both quantitative and qualitative measures. Each of these criteria is marked out of five, giving a total score out of 100 for each centre.

We’ve looked at economic and financial information, demographics, master planning, accessibility and shopper experience.

It could be argued that some criteria are more or less important than others, and should be weighted differently, but this system does its best to ensure a meaningful comparison between centres.


Middleweight Shopping Centres

We have defined Middleweight shopping centres as those that fall between ‘neighbourhood’ and ‘regional’ centres.

Category Winner: The Hub Hornby

The Hub Hornby comfortably beats the other medium-sized centres. The Hub has a lot going for it, with a fast-growing catchment (based on 2006-base population projections from Statistics New Zealand), good expansion opportunities and good accessibility. The Hub also gets full marks for its website, which gives shoppers the low-down on everything they need, including profiling the individual stories and where they can be found, plans for redevelopment…and more. There’s even free WiFi!


1st The Hub Hornby, Christchurch  68/100

The Hub Hornby has always been a pretty strong performer, helped along by having Pak N’ Save as an anchor tenant. The centre recently announced a major expansion which will add new retailers and expand Farmers from a very cramped 1,200 m² to a much more comfortable 6,000 m². We found parking at the centre to be nice and easy, and public transport connections good by Christchurch standards. The toilets were satisfactory, and the mall bright and cheerful – certainly in good nick. Given the size of the mall, there’s a reasonable range of specialty shops, which we would expect to improve post-redevelopment. 

2nd Shore City, North Auckland  63/100

Things haven’t gone too well for the mall formerly known as Westfield Shore City over the last five years. North Shore shoppers proved to have little loyalty once Westfield Albany opened: the new mall was bigger, better and brighter, and it wasn’t long before Shore City’s performance took a plunge.

Today, Shore City remains less popular than it was in its heyday, although Westfield has ensured that it is well maintained. Given the mall’s small size, there is a reasonable range of specialty stores, weighted towards the upper market – appropriate for the Takapuna demographic. Farmers is a good anchor, but given the size of the store, it simply can’t carry the range of products offered in flagship Farmer’s branches like Albany. The food court is nothing special, and despite Shore City’s prime location, there is little integration with the rest of Takapuna.

In late June, Westfield announced that Shore City had been sold to Aviva Investors Asia Pacific Property Fund, marking the entrance of one of the world’s largest property players into New Zealand. We think this is good news: Aviva has more of an incentive to compete against other North Shore malls than Westfield did (since Westfield owns the largest two), and the property expertise to make it happen.

We expect the new owners to make a number of changes. The first step is a rebrand, whether simply dropping the “Westfield” from “Westfield Shore City”, or a more substantial change. We expect the retail mix to evolve over time, and in the long run it would be good to see the mall better integrated with the rest of Takapuna. After all, Takapuna will be a major growth node for Auckland over the coming decades. In short, the future is looking positive.

3rd equal Richmond Mall, Nelson  61/100

Based on size alone we could have put Richmond Mall up into the Heavyweight category, but it serves a small population and has stiff competition over the hill from Nelson City retailers. Richmond hits above its weight and should really be thought of as a good quality medium-sized centre. Renovations have pulled together a more visually cohesive centre, and smoothed over the fact that Richmond Mall is a centre that has grown incrementally over a long time, and has many fronts and no backs. The centre is very popular with locals, and it integrates well with the street retail. There seem to be a few temporary tenants and a few vacancies, but this is a clean and tidy centre with a solid mix of national and local tenants.

3rd equal Centre Place, Hamilton  61/100

It would be unfair to review Centre Place as it is, without first mentioning the mall as it will be. We expect massive improvements over the next 18 months, as owners KIPT push through with a $50 million redevelopment. Ward St – which currently splits the mall in two – is being closed off to improve the connectivity through the mall and Farmers is jumping on board as an anchor tenant, with a 7,000 m² store.

With that said, when we visited Centre Place in June, we found it to be very much a tale of two centres – and not just because of Ward St. The new food court and Bryce St cafes and restaurants look fantastic, whereas much of the rest of the mall is tired, has some very prominent vacancies and parking is a hassle, with the need to pay or validate tickets. Not surprisingly Centre Place has lost critical mass, which begs the question. Why shop there?

Centre Place’s eight screen Event Cinemas complex closed last November, leaving the Hamilton CBD without a mainstream cinema. We understand that KIPT is currently negotiating with a potential operator, although for now the cinemas remain closed. However, the boutique two screen Lido remains, and the food and beverage offering is now second-to-none in Hamilton. KIPT’s redevelopment will secure Centre Place’s position as a major retail hub for Hamilton and consolidate the CBD’s retail offering. This will be a much needed boost for Centre Place and we think the end result will be successful for both KIPT and its tenants.

5th Johnsonville Shopping Centre, Wellington  60/100

Like Centre Place, Johnsonville is a centre waiting for its time to expand. It’s been in a holding pattern for a good few years now – by the time planning approval was granted in 2009, the recession was well and truly underway and the feasibility of a major expansion seemed in doubt. 

We understand that DNZ Property Fund, the managers and half-owners of the mall, may push the button later this year to get things moving, so construction could potentially start in early 2013. This is a very large project, probably the biggest in NZ since Westfield Albany, so it could take two or three years more before the expansion is complete. We continue to hold the view we’ve always held, which is that Wellington is short of shopping centres and the new-look Johnsonville centre will be very successful. It’s a great opportunity.

As for the current state of the mall, it’s a bit of a Cinderella story, and we’ll have to wait for the expansion to bring on the fairy godmother. Today, the ceilings look very minimalist, and perhaps even stained above certain muffin-selling kiosks. The floors and food court furniture look tired, the toilets are presentable but not flash, and some of the entrances are looking tatty, especially the north car park entrance. We’re sure DNZ has a checklist of things to tidy up when the expansion begins, and it’s probably sensible to tackle them all at the same time – but the sooner it all starts, the better.

6th equal Meridian Mall, Dunedin  56/100

Meridian Mall is the right mall in the right place for Dunedin shoppers. It boasts a strong selection of retailers including Kmart, Arthur Barnett and JB Hi Fi, and it’s an excellent anchor for Dunedin’s George St. With a pedestrian link through to the Golden Centre and beyond that, the Wall Street Mall, Dunedin shoppers can choose from more than 90 retailers without stepping outside. Even though each of these centres is separately owned, the integration between them is almost seamless – although we do wonder whether things would be simpler if the centres were under common ownership and management.

Given the close links between these centres, it seems appropriate to comment on the Golden Centre – which is looking fantastic, thanks to a major refurb and a top-notch food court environment – and the Wall Street Mall, which is pleasantly designed but might have benefited from some more commercial nous during its development. At the time of our visit, the Golden Centre was still looking for another two food court tenants, but it’s likely the space will fill quickly as there’s no shortage of customers. Meridian’s food court now looks rather dated by comparison, and perhaps it is time for a do-up.

Despite offering a pretty good shopping environment, Meridian’s toilets are strictly functional, with one-ply toilet paper to deter students with kleptomaniac tendencies. The Golden Centre had more luxurious loos, but still with one-ply paper – indeed, this seems to be a bit of a trend in most Dunedin public buildings!

6th equal Eastgate Shopping Centre, Christchurch  56/100

Eastern Christchurch was hard hit by the February 2011 earthquake, and NPT Limited’s Eastgate was no exception. Most of Eastgate’s specialty stores were closed for five months, and 26 were demolished, along with the mall’s parking building. The earthquakes also led to a negotiated early exit of Farmers. $14 million was spent on repairs and reconstruction, and Eastgate has been certified as structurally sound, with seismic ratings ‘well in excess of current codes’.

The negatives have all been well publicised, so how about the positives? For starters, we expect that Eastgate will increase its ‘market share’ of sales in eastern Christchurch, as the CBD remains largely out of action. The earthquakes have provided an opportunity for Eastgate to take a new direction, and RCG is working with NPT on this process. The Farmers space has been subdivided, with new tenants being introduced to the area as well as No.1 Shoes relocating downstairs. Further redevelopments are also in the pipeline.

As for the mall today, development is proceeding for the new subdivision of the Farmers space, which will also provide NPT with a opportunity to develop and enhance its specialty retail offering in the area. A key consideration will be the importance of maintaining solid relationships with existing retailers and enhancing Eastgate’s retail mix to provide a broader convenience retail offering.

6th equal Westfield Downtown, Central Auckland  56/100

This mall is an uneasy fit with the rest of Westfield’s portfolio in New Zealand – a CBD mall which has never really lived up to expectation. It sits at the bottom end of Queen St, which must have just about the highest land values in the country, and yet the mall is worth less than any of Westfield’s other centres. Westfield has a resource consent to redevelop the site into a new office tower and shopping centre complex, but the Auckland Council has just announced that its ‘preferred’ route for the City Rail Link runs below the mall. Potentially the future of this mall will become intimately tied to the rail project, and the council may end up buying the property.

7th Bethlehem Town Centre, Tauranga  53/100

Bethlehem Town Centre opened in late 2007, with quite unfortunate timing. Close to 20,000 m² of retail was built in one go, despite the fact that much of the space hadn’t been pre-leased and the population base the centre was built to serve hadn’t built to the numbers anticipated. Nearly five years on, plenty of space is still vacant. Despite this, on the day we visited, there were plenty of people enjoying the sun at the Columbus and Coffee Club cafés.

The centre also hosts a market day on Saturday, which provides much needed foot traffic. Bethlehem has its good points, including an attractive design, wide walkways, and clean, modern toilets. Parking is a breeze, as the vacant shops mean that the car parks are always far from full.

8th Centre City Shopping Centre, New Plymouth   49/100

When we visited Centre City in June, New Plymouth’s only mall was showing its age, with parts of the mall not at all ‘up to scratch’. At the eastern entrance off Gill St, the first impression was of escalators, prominent air conditioning ducts and sterile-looking walls. We understand the mall is currently undergoing a refurbishment to improve this area, including replacing the current ducting with something less intrusive! Come Christmas, the entranceways should be looking much better, and Centre City should be able to make that first impression count.

We found Centre City to have a good range of specialty stores, with only a single vacancy. The mall was well patronised on a Friday afternoon, but we thought the seating was rather basic, and the toilets were in need of a clean-up. As the top retail location in a growing city, Centre City is well positioned for the future, but continued investment will be needed to maintain the quality of the retail environment.

9th The Mall, Upper Hutt  45/100

It was a complicated and costly process to redevelop Upper Hutt’s ageing Logan Plaza into a modern retail facility. Unfortunately, the dream didn’t pay off, and the centre was put up for mortgagee sale last month. It’s likely to sell for around $25 million, a fraction of what the redevelopment cost. A motivated and well-funded buyer may be able to breathe new life into the centre, but it’s likely that this will be a challenging process. 

We visited the centre in June, and there were a substantial number of vacancies, along with part of the mall which was blocked off, apparently for a food court development – but it remains to be seen whether this will proceed.

With wide open spaces and voids, and few shoppers around, the centre seemed very empty. For now, The Mall simply doesn’t have the critical mass of retailers that it needs in order to draw shoppers.

10th Trafalgar Square, Whanganui  43/100

We visited Trafalgar Square on a Saturday, and the mall was very popular, with a real community feel, something that can be lacking in larger cities and shopping centres. Parking was easy, despite the hustle and bustle. The food court was quite sub-par. Granted, Trafalgar Square is a small centre, but food courts offer a real point of difference from main street shopping. We were also bemused to see that the only men’s toilets in the mall had just one cubicle. Surely this must create difficulties at peak periods?

Trafalgar Square is well anchored, with The Warehouse at one end and
Countdown at the other. If anything, the centre is too reliant on mini-majors: these take up a lot of space, and minimise the range of specialty shops. Trafalgar Square has recently been bought by Palmerston North-based KCL Property Group. KCL is known for syndicating property, but it seems they want to hang on to Trafalgar Square and invest in the centre. This is a good move, Trafalgar Square is in need of an update, and this will be much easier with a single motivated owner rather than a large number of shareholders. The centre is an excellent asset for Whanganui and we would expect a redevelopment to pay dividends.

Heavyweight Shopping Centres

These shopping centres are big players in their market, with a full range of specialty shops – including a good fashion selection – and anchor tenants, like Farmers or Countdown, to back it up. The distinction between different categories of shopping centre is always going to be a little blurry, but no one would fail to recognise these as true ‘regional centres’.

Category Winner: Botany Town Centre

Botany Town Centre finishes first out of the regional centre heavyweights, with a score of 82 out of 100. Botany scores well on most measures, with an excellent retail mix and a quality shopping experience. It’s also got great demo-graphics, with a large and high-income catchment in east Auckland. However, there’s no room for complacency, as there are plenty of other regional centres not far behind, including the proposed Ormiston Town Centre which will cut into Botany’s catchment in the future.

1st Botany Town Centre, East Auckland  84/100

Botany Town Centre is always a great shopping experience, as long as it’s not raining. Once you’re in the main shopping area, Botany feels like an oasis of calm – with attractive streets and walkways to explore, and a wide range of shops, cafes and entertainment. Getting to Botany can be more of a challenge, however, as it is relatively remote from the motorway.

Strategically, Botany is well positioned – it’s the biggest and best centre in a large, high-income and growing catchment. There are plenty of other malls that would love to trade places with it! However, competition in the area is going to heat up over the next few years, as the Ormiston Town Centre (to the east of Flat Bush) is developed.

2nd Westfield Manukau City, South Auckland  83/100

Westfield Manukau City has its pluses and its minuses. On the one hand, the centre has a relatively disadvantaged catchment, without the levels of affluence in other parts of Auckland. On the other hand, Westfield Manukau City is a great example of a shopping centre knowing its community and pitching its offering accordingly. There are a number of independent retailers represented, more so than in most other malls of this size. There’s an extensive range of mid-market retailers, which represent a step up from the offering elsewhere in south Auckland. The Event Cinemas complex, opened in late 2008, is one of the biggest and best in Auckland. We think that future
development around the Manukau CBD, including MIT’s new Manukau
Tertiary Campus, will stimulate investment, vibrancy and sales in the area.

3rd The Base, Hamilton  82/100

The Base has gone from strength to strength, although few would have predicted that the centre would grow from its large format retail (LFR) roots to incorporate a very popular mall, Te Awa. Today, The Base markets itself as a ‘super regional’ centre – although no New Zealand mall actually meets the Australian criteria for this – and boasts a very wide range of retailers. We’ve considered The Base in its entirety, including Te Awa, the external LFR developments, and the Dress Smart centre. Adding all these elements together, The Base is NZ’s largest retail development, in terms of floor area.

Many Hamilton shoppers have welcomed The Base with open arms, and the centre has been phenomenally successful. The Base’s popularity means that parking can be tough, although Te Awa’s underground car park incorporates the latest sensor technology to help shoppers find empty parks. The mall itself is innovatively designed, has a number of interesting design touches, and is an excellent asset for Tainui. Roadworks around The Base haven’t helped customer flows but that will soon be in the past. What may be harder to overcome is the reluctance of wealthier Hamiltonians to abandon Centreplace and Chartwell for the new kid on the block. Only time will tell.

4th equal Bayfair Shopping Centre, Tauranga  80/100

Bayfair has always been, and probably always will be, Tauranga’s top shopping mall. The centre is extremely popular, and its specialty stores trade very well. Qualitatively, Bayfair is kept looking clean and tidy, and on the day we visited, parking was easy, even though there were throngs of shoppers and cars in and around the centre.
The centre includes two supermarkets, sitting nervously across from each other at the southern end of the mall. Both supermarkets are Countdown and a Woolworths – both owned by Progressive, and sporting the same colours and apple logo. It’s hard to see this situation lasting forever, as it should be pretty obvious to most shoppers that the supermarkets are part of the same group.

Bayfair’s owners have been buying up houses to the northwest of the mall, with the effect that there’s now 3 hectares of potential expansion space. A $100 million expansion is in the planning stages, but apparently it could be delayed because of a dispute between Bayfair and the Council over who will pay for the increased stormwater requirements. Watch this space.

4th equal Westfield Newmarket, Auckland Isthmus  80/100

Westfield Newmarket is the closest thing New Zealand has to a high-end mall: it has a number of international retailers that are hard to find anywhere else, making it a refreshingly different shopping experience. Parking is often tricky, and has been for many years – Westfield has the biggest car park in Newmarket, and a number of shoppers park their car there and shop throughout the area.

An expansion at Westfield Newmarket has been on the cards for a few years now, and probably would have been well underway if not for the shaky
economy. Much of the action will take place on the other side of Mortimer Pass, on a site currently occupied by Farmers – an air bridge will connect the two halves of the centre. We hope that the expansion will also provide an opportunity to simplify the layout of the existing mall: at present, it leaves much to be desired, with shoppers having to wander through a disorienting maze of pathways. At any rate, we expect to be looking at a very different centre in a few years’ time, maybe Auckland’s answer to Westfield’s Bondi Junction in Sydney.

5th Westfield Queensgate, Lower Hutt  79/100

With two levels of shopping, and (sort of) two food courts, Westfield Queensgate is a significant retail destination for shoppers from around the Wellington region. As malls go, it’s the biggest and best in Wellington – almost twice the size of North City, the second-largest. Queensgate is also one of the largest shopping centres in the country.

Unsurprisingly, we were impressed by the range of shops in Westfield Queensgate. The main food court was bustling and attractive, and the toilets were satisfactory, although Queensgate did seem short on seating at the Countdown end of the mall. The centre is well laid out and easy to get around, which can be a tricky feat for multi-level malls to pull off.

6th Northlands, Christchurch  75/100

Northlands made it through the earthquakes relatively unscathed, and experienced much higher sales during 2011. Kiwi Income Property Trust, the mall’s owner, recently announced that some stores will be closed to enable strengthening works to be carried out. Given the expected project duration of 15 months, this is a significant undertaking, which will have impacts on rental income and (probably) turnover. However, it’s the right decision to make, as no shopping centre should ever compromise on safety.

Northlands is well-located, on the aptly named Main North Rd which forms the northern gateway to Christchurch. The centre enjoys a wide shopper catchment as a result. We found the parking experience at Northlands to be average, although electronic signs helped somewhat. Once inside, Northlands is easy to navigate, with long sight lines and well-positioned anchors. The closed-off shops at the southern end haven’t helped vitality in that part of the mall, although elsewhere it is looking well patronised.

7th equal Lynnmall, West Auckland  73/100

Things are certainly looking up at Lynnmall. When we visited in 2009, the centre was starting to show its age, and expectations were fairly low. Three years on, and following an ownership change, Lynnmall’s looking much better. There’s cause for optimism, too, with New Lynn identified as a growth centre for Auckland, and much improved public transport facilities next door.

Lynnmall has a mid-market pitch, with a respectable range of shops. Some years ago, the eastern end of the mall was home to Deka, and the cluster of mini-majors which have replaced it can’t match a department store for pulling power – although JB Hi Fi probably isn’t far off. By Auckland standards, Lynnmall doesn’t have much to set itself apart from other centres. For Lynnmall to grow its catchment, shoppers need to have more of a reason to choose it over Westfield WestCity or St Lukes. If Kiwi Income has the funds, a major re-development could give Westfield St Lukes and West City a run for their money.

7th equal The Plaza, Palmerston North  73/100

There’s no doubt about it: Palmerston North is lucky to have a shopping centre of The Plaza’s calibre. Outside of New Zealand’s main cities, The Plaza is the best there is – and it gives more than a few of the big-city malls a run for their money. The Plaza has been substantially redeveloped over the last four years, going from 18,000 m² of retail space to 32,000 m², an expansion which included a major Farmers store and a stack of new specialty tenants.

Shoppers stream in from all directions, including plenty from out of town. On the day we visited, it was easy to find a park in the eastern carpark building, even though the mall was packed with people. The new food court looked good and was well patronised. Nearby, the toilets were excellent: modern and just about spotless. Overall, The Plaza is a great centre, and the redevelopment has been an absolute winner.

8th The Palms, Christchurch  71/100

The Palms spent much of 2011 off-limits, having been hard hit by the February 2011 earthquake. However, everything was back to normal by the end of the year and the mall is looking very good, with easy (and clearly labelled) parking, ample seating and a good range of shops. A standout for us was the way that The Palms communicated with its customers last year through its Facebook page – shoppers were kept up to date with progress on the reopening, and the page had a real community feel to it.
Like Eastgate, The Palms stands to lose some of its catchment as households are moved out of Christchurch’s “red zoned” areas. Continued investment will be needed to ensure that The Palms remains popular with shoppers from not just the immediate area, but the whole of Christchurch and beyond.

9th Westfield WestCity, West Auckland  70/100

WestCity is the biggest mall in West Auckland, although not by much, and it’s a popular shopping destination for Westies of all persuasions. This shopping centre is a bit of a quiet achiever, with reliable sales performance and a steady customer base. The retail mix tends towards the mid-market, with little in the way of high end retail. This isn’t a bad thing, as it fits the demographics of WestCity’s catchment, and after all, New Zealand’s a very mid-market country!

From a master planning perspective, WestCity is an awkward site – multiple shopping and carpark levels, and a street-level carpark separated from the rest of the mall by a creek. Nonetheless, things flow fairly smoothly inside the mall, and the centre is well integrated with the Great North Rd strip shopping.

10th equal Coastlands, Paraparaumu  68/100

Coastlands is one of New Zealand’s oldest malls, but it’s no relic. The mall has been refurbished in the last few years, and it’s looking fresh and modern. The second stage of the redevelopment is underway, and will expand the Farmers store significantly. Coastlands hosts a reasonable range of specialty shops,
plus a number of standalone LFR stores – great for ‘one stop shopping’.

The internal mall is bright and cheerful, as befits its Kapiti Coast location, and parking is usually pretty easy. Coastlands’ food court left a little to be desired, with an awkward layout and one space still to be leased. Doing a bit of work to improve the view out the window would go a long way, and could actually make the space very enjoyable.

10th equal Westfield Chartwell, Hamilton  68/100

Westfield Chartwell is looking very sharp indeed, with Westfield having poured more than $70 million into it over the last seven years. The mall is now almost twice the size it was in 2005, boasting a large Farmers store, an excellent food court and a good assortment of specialty stores. By and large, we were impressed with the centre on our visit – parking wasn’t a hassle (although the level 2 carpark smelt dreadful), the toilets were clean and there were no vacancies.

11th North City Shopping Centre, Porirua  64/100

If you’re not a local, the roads around North City can be a bit confusing – the Porirua town centre is a bit of a labyrinth. Of course, it’s probably fine once you’re used to it, and our shopper had no problems finding a park once he had gotten his bearings. Inside, North City is an enjoyable shopping environment, with a deserved reputation as Porirua’s preeminent retail address. Centre owners Kiwi Income Property Trust does a good job of keeping the mall fresh and clean, and there’s a decent range of mid-market shops, along with a good food court.

12th Westfield Glenfield, North Auckland  63/100

Westfield Glenfield has lost much of its sheen since Westfield Albany opened in late 2007 – previously the biggest mall on the Shore, it is now a distant second to Albany. Glenfield’s also suffers from awkward parking and a complicated internal layout, and being relatively far from the motorway. Westfield Glenfield doesn’t trade particularly well, and we question whether shoppers see the value in having two Countdown supermarkets in the same mall. Glenfield is in need of a rethink, although this will present challenges.

In the last few years, we think that Glenfield’s lacklustre performance is a symptom of the dominance of the Westfield brand in Auckland. With nine (soon to be eight) Westfield-branded centres around Auckland, shoppers will weigh up whether to go to the closest one, or whether to drive a bit further if they can access a wider range of shops. The strength of Westfield’s brand can actually be a weakness at this level of saturation.

13th Westfield Pakuranga, East Auckland  62/100

Westfield Pakuranga is a centre with a convoluted development history – pulled together from separate parts including The Warehouse, the covered mall and the Pakuranga Galleria. Even today, the shops along Pepler St are under separate ownership, hampering the chances of redeveloping the centre. Westfield does the best job possible with the hand it has been dealt, but Pakuranga is a centre in the doldrums, caught between the larger and more modern shopping destinations at Botany and Sylvia Park. Considering the mall’s history, it’s easy to move through and parking is usually straightforward.

Westfield Pakuranga has a fairly nondescript range of shops, but a much-admired food court. As a Westfield centre, it is kept very clean and tidy throughout, although the toilets were somewhat spartan. Westfield does a good job of keeping vacancies to a minimum, but the closure of Dick Smith has left a dead area at the northern entrance. We also have to wonder about the future of Farmers in the centre, and whether that brand might prefer to jump ship to Sylvia Park when its lease comes up for renewal.

Superheavyweight Shopping Centres

These four malls are the biggest in New Zealand. Auckland shoppers are spoilt for choice when it comes to major shopping centres, and three out of the four are in Auckland. Westfield Riccarton, in Christchurch, is no slouch either, and it’s the most popular mall in the South Island.

Supreme Winner: Sylvia Park

Well, the results are in, and there can only be one winner: we’ve determined Sylvia Park takes the supreme title, edging out Westfield Albany by a nose. There’s really not much to separate these centres. They are both excellent shopping environments, as evidenced by their scores out of 100. We don’t think there’s any doubt that Sylvia Park and Westfield Albany are currently the two best shopping malls in New Zealand. It will be interesting to see how they develop in the future, for neither is likely to stand still. For that matter, there are plenty of challengers with other developments in the pipeline. Things could look very different when the Westfield centres at St Lukes and Newmarket are expanded, or when the Albany town centre (and surrounding suburbs) develops further, or as Sylvia Park continues to work towards becoming a town centre in its own right.

1st Sylvia Park, Auckland Isthmus 95/100

Sylvia Park is the most valuable shopping centre in the country, worth a cool half a billion dollars. It had the second-highest sales of any centre in 2011, pipped at the post by Westfield Riccarton – although Riccarton was given a big boost by the closure of many of its competitors following the February 2011 earthquake. Sylvia Park’s sales look set to reach $400 million (excluding GST) in the next year or two. With around 190 stores, Sylvia Park has a longer tenant list than any other centre in the country. On the down side, Sylvia Park doesn’t have Farmers or Kmart department stores – only The Warehouse Extra, anchoring the southern end. There’s an excellent entertainment offering, with cinemas, restaurants and a quality food court. This is all set within a first-rate retail environment, with attractively presented shopping areas, and a mix of indoor and outdoor tenancies.

Sylvia Park has planning approval for a major expansion, which will mean that it could eventually grow to 250,000 m² of gross floor area – including significant residential and office developments. Ultimately, it will become a major mixed-use centre. The presence of a train station next door – constructed at Kiwi Income Property Trust’s expense – and good bus links means that Sylvia Park has excellent future proofing.
Parking is usually straightforward at Sylvia Park, with the most generous car parking ratio of any centre in this study: 4,000 car parks, or one for every 15m² of retail space. It’s likely that parking will get a bit trickier as the centre is developed more intensively, but for now shoppers enjoy very easy access to NZ’s biggest mall.

The sheer size – or, more accurately, the length – of Sylvia Park can be a little daunting. The mall area is 600 metres from one end to the other, much longer than any other centre in New Zealand. That said, the chance to get some exercise while shopping should be seen as a positive, and indeed Sylvia Park has a ‘Mall Fit’ walking program that runs two mornings a week.

2nd Westfield Albany, North Auckland  93/100

Since Westfield Albany opened, it’s become the shopping mall of choice for a good percentage of North Shore residents, and draws shoppers from all over the Auckland Region. There’s plenty to attract them: an excellent food court, large Farmers and Kmart department stores, and over 100 smaller shops. The shopping environment is attractive, and the dining precinct enjoys good views over the Albany Lakes. Albany’s toilets are top-notch: modern and kept very clean. In short, people come a long way to shop at Westfield Albany, because it’s an enjoyable place to do your shopping.

Westfield Albany also benefits from its central position as part of a major retail hub – anything that can’t be found in the mall can be found nearby, at Albany Mega Centre, Pak N’ Save, The Warehouse, Mitre 10 Mega and more. All up, there’s at least 120,000 m² of retail in Albany. Looking ahead, Westfield Albany will continue to have a pre-eminent role in a growing town centre, which will (eventually) include significant office and residential development.

We can be certain Westfield will not stand still, as there’s plenty of site development potential. In terms of parking, however, Westfield Albany is perhaps a victim of its own success. It’s often a bit of an effort to find a park, and frustrated shoppers can end up parking on the other side of the lakes. These issues will only become more pressing as the rest of the Albany town centre is further developed.

3rd Westfield St Lukes, Auckland Isthmus  88/100

Westfield St Lukes has enjoyed a long run as Auckland’s top shopping destination, and it is still right up there. The range of specialty shops is among the
widest in the country, and they’re backed by strong anchor tenants like Farmers, Countdown and Kmart. However, the food court doesn’t seem to match the rest of the centre for quality. Parking can be a real test of sanity during busy weekends, but St Lukes’ proximity to the motorway means that getting to the area, at least, is straightforward.

Westfield has secured a plan change which will allow St Lukes to be substantially expanded in the future. Although the timeframe for this redevelopment remains uncertain, we expect it to be a step in the right direction. Currently, St Lukes is a very inwards-facing mall, without the outdoor dining experiences of newer centres, and with little in the way of non-retail uses. Westfield’s plans include a mixed-use ‘main street’ environment north of the existing mall – think Nuffield St, which was also developed by Westfield. The new areas will include shopping and offices, and turn St Lukes into more of a town centre instead of just a retail centre.

4th Westfield Riccarton, Christchurch  82/100

There’s no doubt that Westfield Riccarton is a South Island standout. It may not be bigger than Texas, but Riccarton is certainly plenty big: it’s got more retail space, and more retailers, than Westfield Albany, and it’s the second largest shopping mall in New Zealand. As you’d expect, there’s a great line-up of retailers, and an extensive food and beverage offering.

In 2011, retailers in the centre experienced sales like never before, as the Christchurch earthquakes and the closure of the CBD, Eastgate and The Palms meant a large influx of shoppers to remaining operating centres. Despite some shoppers being unwilling to shop in multi-level environments post the earthquakes, Westfield Riccarton’s upper level were bustling on the day we visited – and the mall’s consistently strong sales performance speaks for itself. Riccarton’s popularity, however, does mean parking can be a challenge.

The Final Word

We’ve examined 32 of the biggest and best shopping centres across New Zealand and now we congratulate the leaders in their categories; The Hub Hornby – Christchurch, Botany Town Centre – Auckland, and Sylvia Park – Auckland. Good job, keep leading the way.

Auckland shoppers are spoilt for choice and quality. Competition in Christchurch is working in shoppers’ favour, and despite the earthquake, the area features some of New Zealand’s best centres. The Wellington region needs a shot in the arm. Is it a case of ‘we don’t do malls in Wellywood’? We think it’s more likely complacency due to lack of competition. If you live in regional cities like Palmerston North, Hamilton and Tauranga you’re well served, with a number of top notch centres on your doorstep.

A key issue that has emerged from our review, is that most shopping centres have a ‘sameness’ about them. In a small country, with relatively short distances to travel, we need to offer the consumer something new, rather than constant similarity. There is a major opportunity for shopping centres to create features that have a significant point of difference, rather than mimicking what’s already available. Can this be achieved? We think so. There are plenty of tired centres with good demographics that would benefit from an injection of smart and creative thinking, to capture the imagination of both retailers and consumers.

And for the centres that are unhappy with their score, you’d better get in touch with us at RCG so we can help you climb the ranks!

John Polkinghorne

With a Master of Commerce degree in economics, John is responsible for RCG’s research output, including economic impact assessments, market studies and location strategies. He is an industry media commentator.

© RCG Ltd 2012
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