Auckland's Westfield Newmarket will set the benchmark for New Zealand retail, a manager from the Australian-owned shopping mall operator says.
The first stage of the mega-mall located at 277 Broadway opens its doors to the public this morning after 18 months under construction, with 40 retailers in the centre opening their doors for trade for the first time.
The mall will open at 9am this morning, with a series of events and giveaways planned as the giant structure takes on its competition. The mall will open for 12 hours today and tomorrow to give bargain hunters plenty of time to shop.
Although the centre plans to have 2700 car parks once it's finished, AT recommends eager shoppers get public transport to the site.
Those who do drive - and can find a spot in the main car park - get two hours free parking using the Westfield Plus app.
New-to-New Zealand Australian furniture retailer Coco Republic opens today in the centre along with discount pharmacy chain Chemist Warehouse, Under Armour, Kathmandu, clothing retailer Dangerfield, Huffer, EB Games, Amore Gelato, Spark, Bras N Things and the Cosmetic Clinic, among others.
Before Christmas, Westfield Newmarket plans to have all 230 shops open, as well as an alfresco rooftop dining and entertainment precinct, including a gym and Event cinema. The centre house Peruvian-style restaurant, Inca, arcade bar Archie Brothers Cirque Electriq, and 10 other hospitality outlets, including White + Wong's, Sardine Cocktail Bar and Something & Social.
Other retailers set to open in the mall include New Zealand's first Lego store, department store David Jones on the adjacent site, and clothing brands General Pants Co, Aje, Camilla and Zimmerman.
Paul Gardner, Scentre Group regional manager, said Westfield Newmarket was a demonstration of what shopping malls of the future in New Zealand and Australia would look like, and future upgrades to its existing malls would be modelled on aspects of the centre.
"What's different about this is what we're calling 'experiential retailing', which is quite new for us over the last five years, up to 40 per cent of all the services [will be] consumed on site. Traditionally, a shopping mall was a place where [people] would come to buy, make a transaction and leave with goods. Today, its about dining, entertainment and general services - what you consume whilst on the site, and the experiences you've had when you are here," Gardner told the Herald.
Shopping malls here were making the transition to becoming 'living centres', similarly to how they are considered in Asia. Malls in Asia, such as in the Philippines and Japan, are considered places to take the family on the weekend, some even have theme park-style amusement rides inside the mall.
"This is absolutely our breakthrough. [Westfield Newmarket] would be considered flagship in Australia as well. We are taking this through the boundaries into the next dimension, and this is the model not only for now but for the decades to come."
Shoppers today expected the same quality mall experience as on offer overseas, which is what the mall operator had set out to design, he said. "This represents a new benchmark for retail, not just for Auckland, but New Zealand ... [it] sets a new precedent for retail in the country.
"In a city with a population of 1.65 million, this type of development for Auckland is large. There will be a considerable change in dynamic in the city both within retailing and probably in infrastructure as well," Gardner said.
Construction and development on Westfield Newmarket began in early February last year. Scentre Group has spent $790 million on the redevelopment and extension of the mall which spans four-and-a-half hectares over two sites, connected by a two-level sky bridge. The site was built in 18 months.
Jordan Quill, Coco Republic New Zealand country manager, said the mid-market retailer's biggest competitor in the market was Dawsons.
Quill said she expected Coco Republic to be well-received by consumers. "The support we've had from the community already has been absolutely incredible."
Coco Republic has brought its in-store cafe brand L'Americano Espresso Bar to its Newmarket store, which is managed by Ponsonby-based hospitality group Non Solo Pizza. Coco republic launched the cafe concept in 2015 to operate alongside its furniture stores.
Farmers chief executive David Collins said staff began stocking the Newmarket store, featuring "hundreds of brands", about two weeks ago.
While the new store is not Farmers largest, it is similar in size to its Albany store, at just over 7000 sq m. Collins said the health and beauty section was the department store's fast-growing area within its stores, and the retailer had designed the section of the Westfield Newmarket with this in mind, such as with its men's grooming section.
Collins said the Newmarket store would be among the chain's highest-earning stores. He said the company spent around the same amount of money on the Westfield Newmarket store as it did to fit-out and open its Westfield Albany store.
"When you invest in a store, for a long period time, its is a significant investment. Our biggest investment as far as we're concerned has been investing in what our customer wanted, and investing in our staff and training of our staff for this store."
The store would employ more than 100 staff, he said.
In April, Newmarket Business Association chief executive Mark Knoff-Thomas said David Jones and the developed Westfield Newmarket would draw more shoppers to the area.
Spending in Newmarket was around $550 million in the last financial year, around 16 per cent down on the previous year - a great result, Knoff-Thomas said, considering the area had lost many carparks and a supermarket following the redevelopment of Scentre Group's Westfield site.
Knoff-Thomas said the association expected the Newmarket economy to increase with David Jones and other global retailers coming on board.
"We expect to be nudging past $1 billion in the next 12 to 18 months."