Corazon Miller is a NZ Herald reporter

End of an era for Auckland's downtown mall

The Downtown Shopping Centre will be giving way to tunnels for the City Rail Link to be built underneath the precinct. Photo / Michael Craig
The Downtown Shopping Centre will be giving way to tunnels for the City Rail Link to be built underneath the precinct. Photo / Michael Craig

It's the end of an era for Auckland's only downtown shopping mall which closes its doors today after 41 years.

The Downtown Shopping Centre will be giving way to a $550 million 36-level glass tower with tunnels for the City Rail Link to be built underneath the precinct.

For at least one retail tenant, it was the end of her business as she knew it.

Jennifer Gumafelix owned a small jewellery outlet, Tasker, on the ground floor of the mall where she'd been trading for the better part of six years.

While the business was looking into opening a store elsewhere she said rents in the CBD were quite expensive and so was thinking of making the move to an online store.

"It's really sad, because we have lots of customers who would like us to open another shop," she said. "We have been here for six years so most of them are regulars.

"My customer this morning was crying when she saw me, she's here every month buying presents. She asked me 'where am I going to buy my presents?'."

Prices at her store have been slashed in half, with glass pendants up for grabs for $20 and jewellery down to $50 from $100.

Signs throughout the mall yesterday afternoon showed discounts of up to 80 per cent in some stores. Scarf Queen, which typically sells hats and scarves from $15 upwards, had everything on sale for $5 and under.

Yesterday afternoon a number of the mall's stores, including the Warehouse and a few of the smaller boutique outlets, were already empty and closed.

Others like Amazon and Stevens looked to be on the verge of closing with at least three-quarters of their shelves completely bare.

Numerous city workers were spotted taking advantage of the sales during their lunch breaks, while some tourists expressed joy at their luck walking in on the sales.

Mariatul Qatia Zakaria said it was a "marvellous" sale.

She'd bought a $5 Hello Kitty bag for her daughter, which she said was normally quite expensive in her home country of Malaysia.

Fay Blomquist, who has run her aromatherapy company Extracts from the Auckland Central mall for the last 19 years, said the final day was big for her.

"It's been an emotional time, letting go of my little shop. What I've really loved is how may people have come in to tell me how much they've enjoyed shopping here."

Theresa Rongonui and her family had come over from Waiheke especially to shop at the mall one last time.

"We're really disappointed that the mall's closing. It's our number one shopping spot because we don't have to get in the car to go."

Bargain hunters were spoilt for choice.

Claire Tynan of Beachlands scored some discount merino wool jerseys while sisters Katie and Lacey Barnett of Te Atatu nabbed two-for-one pairs of jeans.

Meanwhile Aucklander Melissa Irvine was happy at her bag filled with a stash of little utensils that cost her a total of $7.

Another local, Jackie, said she was pleased to have gotten in early with her Christmas shopping - with at least 50 per cent off most of her purchases.

However, she was pleased to see the potential the tunnels under the soon-to-be-built precinct would bring.

"It will be great to have an inner rail loop ... to have a more reliable service."

Managers the Herald spoke to said items had been flying off the shelves.

One who didn't want to be identified was moving to another branch next week, but said she would miss the environment of the inner-city mall.

"It's a little bit nostalgic," she said. "I've met lots of tourists with amazing travel stories, regulars, the business people who you can have a little joke with and say hi."

Another, who also didn't want to be named, said yesterday that sales were going so well she was not sure the store would be opening for trading today.

"We will probably just be packing."

- NZ Herald

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