British fashion retailer Mulberry is gearing up to make its New Zealand retailing debut.
The high-end handbag and clothing brand, often donned by the likes of the Duchess of Cambridge Kate Middleton and the Duchess of Sussex Meghan Markle, will open its first NZ store in Westfield Newmarket shopping centre before Christmas.
Exactly when the store will open has not yet been confirmed, but it will be located next to David Jones on the 277 Broadway side of the two-building centre.
Westfield Newmarket owner Scentre Group said the opening of Mulberry would be a key milestone for the shopping centre and would mark the first retail opening within its luxury retailing precinct.
John Papagiannis, director of leasing, retail solutions and NZ development at Scentre Group, said the arrival of Mulberry represented "the first of many luxury openings" to come at Westfield Newmarket.
More luxury retailer tenancies will be announced next year. The Herald understands Partridge Jewellers, Gucci, Louis Vuitton, Canada Goose and Tory Burch will be among other high-end brands to open stores in the precinct in 2021.
"Renowned for its quintessentially British designs, Mulberry is a brand we know our customers will really value and enjoy and we look forward to celebrating its grand opening next month," Papagiannis said.
"In what is a first for New Zealand and the Scentre Group portfolio, we're thrilled to be welcoming Mulberry to Westfield Newmarket before Christmas. The arrival of Mulberry represents the first of many luxury openings to come at the centre."
The newly refurbished Westfield Newmarket opened its doors after 18 months of development in August last year. The $790 million centre is home to more than 150 retailers and a rooftop dining precinct across five levels.
Retail analyst Chris Wilkinson, managing director of First Retail Group, said Mulberry was a good win for Westfield Newmarket.
"It won't have people crashing through the doors to visit it, but it is certainly a brand that we don't have in New Zealand at the moment that people will know and are very fond of," Wilkinson told the Herald.
"Once that luxury quarter within the centre reaches its critical mass it will be an experiential destination. It's a great centre and all it is kind of now waiting on is the luxury offer."
Mulberry is one of a handful of luxury retailers to set up their first bricks and mortar offering in New Zealand. Earlier this year, Tommy Hilfiger and Calvin Klein each opened their first stores in downtown Auckland shopping precinct Commercial Bay, and later next month Italian retailer Bulgari will open a flagship Auckland store.
Wilkinson said international retailers new to the New Zealand market now had more options for shop fronts after Covid-19 had forced many outlets to shut up shop.
He said there was a bit of musical chairs happening within the retail sector as brands moved to secure better store locations as vacancies became available, and retailers had resumed expansion plans following a return of confidence.
"There's certainly no way near the moment that we had seen in the past, but what's happening is many retailers are driven by greater availability of space and more willingness from property owners to meet the market."
Big centres such as Westfield Newmarket and Commercial Bay often sparked the interest of international brands, as did the Queenstown location, Wilkinson said.