Tauranga and the wider Bay of Plenty shopping centres are continuing to experience strong retail growth across the subregion.
They report overall retail foot traffic lifting, despite new competition from the arrival of Kmart at Bethlehem in March, and the recent launch of Tauriko's Tauranga Crossing.
The latest data from Paymark showed Bay of Plenty spending for all cards handled by the electronic payments system reached $294.2 million for September, up 11.7 per cent on September 2015, while transactions of 6.26 million were up 11.5 per cent.
That was behind the percentage growth in value for transactions in Southland (16.6 per cent) and Gisborne (12 per cent), but both of their gains were on lower transaction values. October data is scheduled for release next week.
"Bay of Plenty retail spending growth has been leading the country," said Retail New Zealand public affairs general manager Greg Harford.
"Throughout the last year we've seen strong growth in the Bay."
Retail NZ's most recent data for the June quarter showed the Bay of Plenty topping the country for overall retail spending, with $1.325 billion in transaction value, up 19.1 per cent on the corresponding quarter in June 2015. The September data will be released in mid-November.
Anecdotal reports suggested spending had been flat to positive for the July-September quarter, said Mr Harford.
"We won't know for sure until we get the official statistics this month. But sentiment is pretty positive in the lead-up to Christmas. The summer season is positive for retail in general, but particularly in summer destinations such as the Bay of Plenty."
Bethlehem Town Centre manager Andrew Wadsworth said the launch of major new retailer Kmart has had a major positive impact on foot traffic.
"The centre as a whole is trading 50-to-60 per cent up on last year, or 19 per cent if you take out Kmart," he said.
"There's been a good upside across the centre since Kmart came. And although it's early days yet, we haven't seen any impact at all from the opening of Tauranga Crossing. Bethlehem is trading very strongly."
Long-established Bayfair Shopping Centre has not so far seen any impact on its sales or foot traffic from either the new Kmart or the Tauranga Crossing opening, says manager Steve Ellingford. September month, year-on-year, customer visits continued to grow, as did full centre sales, he said.
"Both were consistent with the customer visits and sales growth being reported over the last 12 months. Bayfair has experienced a positive last three years, and an extremely positive past 12 months."
Bayfair is now fully leased, with a current occupied tenancy number of 94, and three new lease deals recently finalised. Two were expected to open this month through to next month and the third in early 2017, said Mr Ellingford.
At Papamoa Plaza, centre manager David Hill said last week's soft opening of its new food court had doubled foot traffic. "They were queuing at the doors when we opened it and it's been going gangbusters ever since," he said.
Sally Cooke of Mainstreet said she had not received any negative reports from its central business district members as a result of the opening of Tauranga Crossing and Kmart.
"Downtown Tauranga is unique in its own right, it's a civic, cultural and retail hub and the city centre and there's confidence about the new civic developments, such as the waterfront steps," she said.
There were new businesses moving in and the opening of the new Trustpower building in Durham St had already made an impact, she added.
"Their presence in the city was evident from the moment they came in. They get out for lunch, they shop and dine. A lot of people forget that there is a huge customer base in the 12,000 people who come into the city centre every day to work."
According to data from Tauranga Crossing, cited when they opened their new centre, the retail expenditure capacity in the wider Bay of Plenty - including Tauranga, Western Bay of Plenty, Rotorua, Tokoroa and Putaruru - could grow from $3.6 billion in October 2015 to $6.1 billion by 2031. They were drawing on data from specialist property consultants Macro Plan Demasi.
Bayfair's Mr Ellingford said the overall retail market in Tauranga/WBOP was growing on the back of the economy.
"We would expect to see this continue for the next several years," he said, noting that Bayfair had the capacity to expand if required. (see story below).
"The economic data being released clearly points to an expanding economy on the back of population growth, job creation, tourism, a very buoyant primary sector, investment in Ports of Tauranga, region-wide infrastructure, and commercial and residential development."
Bayfair option to expand
Bayfair is owned by AMP Capital Investment. Centre manager Steve Ellingford confirmed that it owned a number of residential properties adjacent to Bayfair.
"This does give the centre the option to expand if this is decided as a direction the centre owners want to take in the future," he said. But there were no current plans to expand the centre's footprint.
"We are always assessing the centre's relevance for our customers, both on a demand and offer basis. This is done in line with key growth indicators both centre-specific and the wider regional economy, and determines what our ideal retail mix should be, and what services and amenities we should be providing."
[Factbox] Paymark national trends
-The annual national underlying growth rate of spending through the Paymark electronic payments network was 7.5 per cent up in September 2016 on the same month in 2015, near the 7.4 per cent averaged in the first six months of 2016.