Property editor of the NZ Herald

NorthWest mall boss reassures retailers

Retailers are reporting long, quiet periods at the new NorthWest mall in Auckland's Photo / Greg Bowker
Retailers are reporting long, quiet periods at the new NorthWest mall in Auckland's Photo / Greg Bowker

NorthWest's mall boss has reassured retailers the centre is still in development phase and told them to bring any concerns directly to her.

As a counter-offensive against claims that Auckland's newest shopping mall is a 'ghost town', NorthWest centre manager Jennifer Andrews sent a letter to all tenants this month reminding them of significant new developments about to open soon.

That was in response to a highly critical letter sent to retailers, complaining about lack of customers at the new 100-shop outlet at Westgate Town Centre.

"Recently a letter was distributed to a number of NorthWest retailers from an anonymous source," Andrews wrote. "We would like to take this opportunity to remind you all that, should you have any business concerns at NorthWest to approach us directly to discuss so we can provide appropriate assistance/advice tailored to your individual needs."

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She also encouraged retailers to see the bigger picture and to have patience.

"As you're aware, NorthWest is part of the overall Westgate Town Centre Development and as such we are still in the development phase. NorthWest Stage 2 will open in October this year which will include a dining precinct consisting of brands such as Good Brothers, Cleaver & Co, Nandos and Papparich," she said, thanking them for ongoing support.

One anonymous retailer dubbed NorthWest a "ghost town".

"I am one of many financially desperate and concerned tenants at the new Northwest shopping mall. The so-called mega-mall just isn't getting customers, it's a ghost town.

"There are many desperate tenants out there, too scared to say anything publicly but desperate for some help. I've had some call me crying and fearful they are about to lose their house. Another came into my store and told me that they have to sell another business to keep funding the rent."

Retail expert Chris Wilkinson said the shopping centre was ahead of its time and new restaurants and offices due to be completed later this year will help boost trade.

The managing director of First Retail Group said his business was already working with retailers who found the new six-month-old 100-shop centre too quiet.

"We work with a number of large retailers ... to help them with strategies. These stores in NorthWest are not doing as well as they expected compared to other stores.

"We were there only last week on behalf of some retailers to look at recovery strategies," he said, describing how his business had quizzed retail workers and shoppers to ascertain exactly how quiet the mall is and what could be done.

It's before it's time. It's going to be a long game. The challenge is that it was opened without a really strong food and beverage offering.
Chris Wilkinson, of strategists First Retail Group

Landlord Stride Property issued an NZX notice this month saying the mall was in a "stabilisation phase" and also citing new restaurant and office developments it is undertaking nearby.

It was "the first stage of a larger development", Stride said in the March 16 notice.
Wilkinson said the mall had been a trail blazer. "It's before it's time. It's going to be a long game. The challenge is that it was opened without a really strong food and beverage offering," he said.

I've had some call me crying and fearful they are about to lose their house. Another came into my store and told me that they have to sell another business to keep funding the rent.
Anonymous NorthWest retailer

NorthWest Two's restaurants and offices were expected to be finished this October. It would help "bring critical mass and help differentiate the centre. Offices are also of benefit because they bring more people," said the First Retail managing director.

Have you been to the NorthWest Mall? Tell us your story

He also praised the quality of anchor tenants Countdown at one end and Farmers at the other, saying they drew customers. The Farmers was a particularly appealing store because it was a new-format style.

But Wilkinson had other concerns.

"Consumers are not talking about it positively online. There's not a lot of coverage on consumer channels," he said referring to forums such as Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

Shopper Sharyn Shepard voiced disappointment. "Getting in and out is like driving through a maze. I have never known access ... to be so complicated. The shops are nothing special and there is no atmosphere." Stride responded to inquiries by referring the Herald to the NZX notice.

See a Google Map showing the location of the new NorthWest mall here:

- NZ Herald

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