Tauranga has grown from a sleepy seaside village into a modern city and
this growth has meant the face of shopping has changed hugely.
No longer do we have just suburban shopping centres and Bayfair. Tauranga people are now spoiled for choice with the expansions of Tauranga Crossing, Bayfair and Papamoa Plaza.
In the first of a two-part series, Zoe Hunter examines the rise of the malls and finds out how they compare, what they have to offer and how they're offering more than just a shopping experience.
And she discovers what this all means for our CBD.
Tauranga Crossing has a floor space equivalent to six rugby fields.
It's that expansiveness that catches you by surprise as you walk through the sliding doors of Tauranga's newest mall.
Inside, large glass windows provide views of The Lakes and skylights in the ceiling above invite natural light. Shop signs welcome customers and illuminate the polished grey and white tiled floors.
A selection of new restaurant dining options is upstairs in The Observatory, while the lower deck provides a more casual eating experience.
Outside, a reddish kinetic tree-like sculpture takes pride of place in a landscaped garden on the bottom floor, catching customers by surprise as it moves unexpectedly in the wind.
Foot traffic figures suggest there is a ready appetite for the modern shopping experience on offer at Tauranga Crossing.
More than 100,000 people visited the Crossing in the first week after stage two of the development opened on April 4 this year.
To put those figures in perspective - the city has an estimated population of 135,000 people.
Tauranga Crossing centre manager Andrew Wadsworth says more than 20,000 people came through the doors of the enclosed mall on opening day.
"The response to the mall opening has been overwhelmingly positive," he says.
"The response on social media has also been incredibly positive, with the vast majority of customers commenting on the unique features of the centre, from the great customer service in stores to the experiential elements of the centre like the Garden."
Shoppers, says Wadsworth, do not see the centre as just a mall and "they don't just have to come here to go shopping".
Retailer feedback has been positive with numerous stores stating they are trading above expectations, he says.
Majestic Tea Bar franchise director Chris Cox says: "The opening of the new mall has exceeded our expectations."
The Crossing opened its doors with an outdoor town centre and The Millyard dining precinct in August 2016, with 18,000sq m of floor space.
It expanded 13,000sq m when the first 15 stores of the fully enclosed shopping centre opened in October 2018.
An extra 15,000sq m was added with the opening of the cinema complex and another 70 retailers and dining outlets in Stage Two in April, creating a total floor space of 46,000sq m.
Modern shopping, replete with movie theatres, restaurants and chain stores, has arrived on a scale Tauranga has never seen before.
Grace Aanedwiel, one of Tauranga Crossing's first customers, is pleased to have a shopping mall on her side of the bridge, while Tauriko resident Wendy Lowe says the mall is the best thing to have happened in the area after Pak n'Save.
What's on offer
Square meterage: Total 47,000sqm of trading lettable area
Final cost: More than $150 million
Stores: More than 100 stores and eateries, including global brand H&M, Bras & Things, Skechers, Hawker & Roll, and Bird on a Wire
Jobs: Retailers and restaurateurs in the complex now employ about 1000 people
What the shoppers think at Tauranga Crossing
Alison Wilson, Welcome Bay
"It is just like the malls in Australia, really. I love the fact that some of the bigger places like H&M have come to Tauranga instead of just being in the main centres."
Jessica Booth, Mount Maunganui
"We have come to the new movies. We have heard the sound system is good and we wanted to come and see the mall really, so that was just an excuse. It looks good, it looks like overseas malls."
Reuel Percy, Tauranga
"We wanted to experience it away from the opening day, which was pretty crazy. It has been really nice to be here. We like the outdoor area for parents and the way that the mall flows and the accessibility of everything."
Heather Flintoff, Hamilton
"I am here to check out H&M because I have never been before and it is really popular. I actually travelled from Hamilton to Tokoroa to pick up my friends and to Tauranga just to come here."
Rebekah Young, Jaciarh Rowling, 11, Jethro Young, 5, and Aleyha Rowling, 8, Pyes Pa.
"We actually came on opening night to have a look around. It is really convenient for us. Living in Pyes Pa, we have always had to go to Bayfair and now we can just shoot five minutes down the road and it's all here."
Bayfair Shopping Centre
On the other side of town, the sound of pinball machines, and the ding-ding-ding of a prize winner can be heard from inside the recently opened Timezone arcade at Bayfair Shopping Centre in Mount Maunganui.
The city's first mall was once smaller than a rugby field with just a few stores, now Bayfair Shopping Centre has expanded into a retail complex six times its original size.
Customers are flowing into new retail stores that opened after stage one of a multi-million dollar expansion was completed in December.
More than 160,000 people visited Bayfair in the first week after stage one of its redevelopment opened on December 7.
One of Bayfair's first shoppers tells the Bay of Plenty Times, "It's about time for Bayfair to start growing".
Bayfair Shopping Centre manager Steve Ellingford says the development is the culmination of more than 10 years of planning.
"It has been planned to service the desires of our customers and demand of retailers," he says.
Bayfair was built in 1985 with an original 7000sq m of floor space before expanding in 1993 and again in 2002.
The additional stores, entertainment and dining options in the $115-million redevelopment will expand the footprint by 9000sq m to a total 42,000sq m.
Ellingford says Bayfair has been the region's "retail icon" for 30 years.
"The centre performs exceptionally well against other shopping centres, and prior to development it boasted New Zealand's highest speciality sales per square metre," he says.
"Bayfair's continuing popularity and performance, combined with Tauranga's remarkable growth, meant it was the right time for a transformation."
The aim of the development is to "revolutionise the local retail experience", he says.
A closed off area provides a hint of what is still to come - a new seven-screen cinema complex due to open later this year.
A weather-protected alfresco dining area with seven new restaurants and eateries, as well as additional parking, were unveiled on Saturday. The new dining options are Burger Burger, Mexico, IZAKAI, Nandos, Katsubi, The Freeport Tavern and Eatery, and Cleaver & Co.
Ellingford says the development will continue to be delivered in stages.
"Customers can expect to see the addition of new features throughout 2019 including new children's play elements, landscaping, new store openings and large-scale grand openings," he says.
What's on offer?
Bayfair Shopping Centre
Square meterage: Total 42,000sq m
Final cost: $115 million
Stores: On completion, the centre will have about 150 stores, entertainment and dining options, including Lower, Charm, The Soccer Shop, a brand-new flagship Amazon Surf store, and Merric.
Jobs: On completion, the centre and its retailers will employ 1500 people, 500 more prior to the development.
What the shoppers think at Bayfair Shopping Centre
Michaela Moore, Nova Bolton, 4, Tyler Bolton, 9 - Greerton.
"There are so many different things to do. The kids have really looked forward to it the last couple of days."
Toby Cross, 8, Sam Cross, 11, Thomas Kalan, 11, Blake Kalan, 8, Amy Kalan, Rebecca Cross, Regan Cross.
"We have been here for the last hour and a half. It has been great fun." - Toby.
"I am from Taupo, we don't have anything like this. It has been really cool and neat to see all of the new shops, there is something for everyone. We can shop and the kids can play and everyone is happy." - Amy Kalan
Annaliese Horne, 24, Jemma Horne, 21, Mount Maunganui
"I would say people are a lot more excited to come here and they probably spend a whole lot more money because there is a lot more stores. We actually live closer to the Crossing so it made more sense to go there. I would definitely travel to come here." - Annaliese
Lisa Mcarthur, Mount Maunganui
"Honestly, I think the mall has missed a really great opportunity at catering to the elderly. There are so many retirement villages and homes around here and there is nothing in this mall that is actually any good for them to buying clothes.
"I haven't come here for the fashion, I have come for the grocery shopping, massages, that sort of thing."
What's happening in Pāpāmoa?
Meanwhile, the next stages planned for Papamoa Plaza's $20m expansion are expected to provide jobs to more than 700 people by its planned completion date of early 2020.
Papamoa Plaza centre manager David Hill says 656 jobs had been created, and the next stages of the redevelopment would employ an extra 40 to 50 people.
Hill says an extra 180 roles had been created at the plaza since the expansion began in 2015.
The redevelopment would expand the 9000sq m shopping centre to 20,000sq m, and another 15 stores would bring the shop total to 55.
A food court and two new stores opened in 2016. The significant revamp also included a village green and outside amphitheatre seating for 40 patrons in a 250sq m performance space for concerts and events.
The next stages of the redevelopment will include an office block and large format retail precinct.
Big money, big rewards
More than $250 million has been invested in the expansion of the two malls on either side of Tauranga Harbour Bridge.
Bayfair's expansion has a price tag $115 million, while Tauranga Crossing is estimated to cost more than $150m.
There are now more than 100 retail stores and eateries in the mega-mall in Tauriko, while Bayfair in Mount Maunganui will have about 150 stores, entertainment and dining options on completion.
Combined, the shopping malls have created about 2500 jobs.
Priority One projects manager Annie Hill says the strong growth in retail developments is a good indicator of economic and investor confidence.
"It is great to see so many new jobs created, providing employment opportunities for those already living here as well as people from elsewhere that would like to move to Tauranga."
Investment decisions in the retail sector consider many factors, including future population growth projections over the next few decades, to determine the return on investment, Hill says.
"The decisions that brands have made to become part of the Tauranga Crossing retail centre and the Bayfair expansion will have strong businesses cases behind them to determine their commercial viability in the medium to long term. This bodes very well for the city and its reputation as a great place in which to establish a business, both now and in the future."
The changing face of retail
Dr Roy Larke, a senior lecturer in marketing at the University of Waikato, says the developments at Bayfair and Tauranga Crossing signify the changing face of shopping.
He is an expert on retailing, consumer behaviour and marketing with a particular focus on Japan.
Larke says in places like Japan, the United States and the United Kingdom, the traditional "one-stop-shop" mall with a collection of shops and a basic food mall are now becoming less popular and less efficient to run.
Unless a shopping mall offers a specific experiential shopping experience it does not add to the overall retail facilities or shopper value.
"I am not saying shopping centres are bad. But just a bunch of shops are no longer very valuable in terms of its commercial impact or on society.
"Consumers are now seeking an all-around "experience" combining retail, dining and entertainment."
Tauranga Chamber of Commerce chief executive Stan Gregec says Tauranga's shopping experience "has gone to another level".
"I'm not surprised most of Tauranga is flocking to see them," he says.
He has visited both Bayfair and the Crossing recently and is with how shopping areas merge with eating spaces and entertainment areas,
It leaves shoppers with the impression of an all-in-one experience, he says.
"There is definitely more pizzazz and an international flavour to both malls, with the arrival of new brand names that we've not really seen before in this part of the world, but it's also good to see new local brands coming through."
"I don't think anyone is going to be complaining that they have to go to Auckland or overseas for choice any more. It's all now available on your doorstep."
Annie Hill has yet to visit either mall, preferring to do most of her shopping in the CBD.
However, she understands why shoppers are drawn to the malls.
"It is quite unusual to have so many new retail outlets open at the same time and also to include the restaurants, cafes and entertainment, so it will be a new experience for many in Tauranga. Having a global brand such as H&M will also be a significant drawcard."
The redevelopments of Bayfair Shopping Centre, Tauranga Crossing and Papamoa Plaza will create upwards of 3200 jobs on completion.
However, retailers and business experts say the expansion of the shopping malls could draw more shoppers away from Tauranga's CBD.
Chairman of Mainstreet organisation Downtown Tauranga, Brian Berry, says the CBD has been under pressure for many years due to the increase of suburban shopping centres.
So what has the rise of these mega-malls meant for the city's CBD. In part two tomorrow, we examine the impact, speaking to retailers, shoppers, real estate agents and industry experts.