Key Points:

Shopping mall ratings have given the new Westfield Albany centre four stars, with Lynnmall at the other end of the scale receiving just two stars.

Retail experts RCG gave malls a points rating partly in response to harder economic times but just in case there's a midwinter shopping frenzy.

"We thought it timely to consider the performance and retail offering of shopping centres around the country and to nominate our top centre," RCG's regular publication Retail Examiner said.

No New Zealand shopping centres ranked one star, which would mean its future was bleak and its shops were below par.

Calling a centre "ho-hum" meant its performance was average and its shops adequate but it was nothing special.

Calling a centre "yahoo" means it was a top performer, had an exciting shop range and excellent opportunity for future development as a property.

The ratings - Auckland region

Westfield Albany - 4 stars
Sylvia Park - 4 stars
Botany Town Centre - 3.5 stars
St Luke's - 3.5 stars
Westfield Manukau - 3.5 stars
Westgate - 3 stars
Westfield 277 - 3 stars
Westfield Shore City - 2.5 stars
Westfield Glenfield - 2 stars
Lynnmall - 2 stars

So Westfield Glenfield and LynnMall got low "ho-hum" two-star rankings, but the new Westfield Albany was rated as the best, scoring a "yahoo" and four stars for having the best credentials as a place to shop.

The Glenfield centre faced challenges from competitors, particularly the new Albany centre, RCG said. Its future now looked "a little bleak" and only shoppers who knew how to get there would visit it, RCG said.

Westfield's owner-manager defended Glenfield, saying new tenants were arriving soon and the centre was a convenient, family destination.

RCG said LynnMall's look and feel had been allowed to deteriorate. The centre was not performing at its true potential, and AMP would have to invest money to give it a very long overdue spit and polish.

An AMP spokesperson disagreed, saying LynnMall had more sales for every square metre than other centres, had been refurbished and new retailers had moved in.

RCG gave Porirua's North City a two-star rating for struggling to achieve good sales. Christchurch's Eastgate got the same for being a "sandwich" mall, caught between The Palms on one side of the city and Westfield Riccarton on the other.

Many Christchurch shopping centres tried to appeal to a catchment that was not up to the level of income required, RCG found.

Wellington was bereft of malls, with only Queensgate being able to make a big statement, RCG said. Sylvia Park in Auckland got four stars and was praised for having a wide catchment area of shoppers, because of its accessibility from the motorway.

Westfield 277 Newmarket got three stars as one of New Zealand's best-performing malls, although RCG said parking could be a nightmare.

Dunedin's Meridian centre got just 2.5 stars, lacking a supermarket and languishing economically.

Botany Town Centre and Westfield malls in Manukau and St Lukes got 3.5 stars, praised for being popular with shoppers, pulling in major sales and being in good locations.

Crime was cited as being an issue at Manukau, after the mugging and subsequent death of a shopper in the carpark.

Some shoppers and staff say they feel unsafe, but RCG predicted the mall would recover.

Westfield Pakuranga got three stars for struggling in the face of competition from Botany and Sylvia Park.

Westfield Shore City at Takapuna got 2.5 stars, with RCG finding it pleasant and offering good store selection, but any expansion was remote.

"An irony is the impact from Albany (a sister centre) on Takapuna overall," RCG said.

Westfield WestCity at Henderson and Westgate both got three stars.