Has Auckland's newest mega-mall become a ghost town?
The beautiful summer, holiday season end and location appear to have affected the new NorthWest Shopping Centre, with customers reporting quiet scenes, particularly on week days.
But its owner, Stride Property, describes the centre as "now in a stabilisation phase" and pointed to rapid development around it, "expected to attract further visitation to the centre and support stabilisation in the near term".
Stride also says a second big phase of development is now almost finished and alongside its shopping centre. NorthWest Two is due to be finished by October. New restaurants and extensive office space is picked to bring far more people to the mall.
The $160 million 2.7ha 100-outlet at Westgate Town Centre was opened six months ago and one retailer and some shoppers have reported long, quiet periods.
Readers give their view of the new NorthWest mall:
• Christopher: "What do they expect? No decent public transport links other than crappy, infrequent buses. It's 2016, not 1966."
• Elizabeth: "Have to say, parking is a breeze and air conditioning definitely working. Had to go back to the car the other day and grab a cardie.
• Adrienne: "I am just writing to agree with your article about the NorthWest mall. I live in West Auckland and was excited about the new mall when it was being built especially when all the advertising was about a mega mall. I envisioned an Albany mall which was closer to home. I was severely disappointed when I first visited the mall as it is small compared to Albany and WestCity and has a disappointing range of shops, lots of jewellery and adults clothes and not much else. I visit the NorthWest mall for a one off purchase from a shop that I know is there or to use the food court. Otherwise it is still a trip to Albany or WestCity where there are a variety of shops."
• Mark: "It's ugly and was never needed."
• Roger: "It would be informative to go across the road and interview the tenants at the Westgate mall, particularly as NorthWest opened virtually in direct competition to the existing mall. What impact has NorthWest had on Westgate? Who is the winner in this development competition, and who are the victims?"
• Brent: "What has put us off off shopping at NorthWest is that the shops are nothing new and mostly no late nights."
Warm weather, return to school and work after Christmas and the mall's location in a developing greenfields area are some of the factors thought to have kept shoppers away, although Stride says "complimentary" activities are developing around the centre.
"I am one of many financially desperate and concerned tenant at the new NorthWest shopping mall," one retailer said. "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. There is no empathy from Stride as to our situations.
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.
They try to tell us we are the only one struggling, but overlook the fact that all of the managers and owners there talk to each other. Their response is very hard lined and non co-operative. They've even said that they expect a number of tenants to fall over in the first year and that's just the way it is," the retailer complained.
Stride gave an NZX update on the mall this month, acknowledging its trail-blazing move with the mall.
"The NorthWest Shopping Centre is the first stage of a larger development located at the Westgate Town Centre with over 40,000sq m of retail, office and commercial facilities currently under construction," Stride said.
NorthWest Two - with new restaurants and offices - is now well under construction opposite the mall and due to be finished in October, it said.
The new Zone 7 bulk retail centre by Kiwi Property is also being built and that will bring more activity to the area.
Chris Gudgeon, Kiwi chief executive, is optimistic about the area's prospects.
"Westgate is a Metropolitan Centre under the Unitary Plan and we believe it will emerge as one of Auckland's favoured retail destinations, particularly for large format retail, with very positive attributes in terms of population growth, household formation and motorway accessibility," he said in announcing the land purchase for Zone 7 last year.
A Mitre 10 and Pak'nSave has opened in the area and a new Bunnings Warehouse is under way.
The wider Westgate scheme is a 56ha $1b project where a $20 million library, 6ha of public open space and parks. $8 million town square and community buildings and new bus station are planned.
What: New 100-shop NorthWest Shopping Centre.
Where: Off Northwestern Motorway at Westgate Town Centre, between Maki St and Gunton Drive.
Who: Developed by DNZ Property Fund.
When: Opened October 1, 2015.