The number of empty retail shops in Newmarket is on the rise with concerns the ongoing redevelopment of Westfield mall is scaring shoppers, and retailers, away.
More than 10 retail sites are empty in and around Newmarket's central shopping strip on Broadway, a number that has been increasing this year.
RCG executive director Andy Florkowski said the number of empty shops in Newmarket had been increasing for "quite some time".
"The number of fashion retailers has declined significantly," Florkowski said.
"Newmarket has historically identified itself as the fashion quarter, but it feels like it is struggling to get the mix right at the moment."
Ongoing construction from the redevelopment of Scentre Group's $790 million Westfield shopping mall project and fewer car parks in area was not making it a desirable shopping location, Florkowski said.
"Unfortunately, Newmarket has a number of components that are not aligned making it an unattractive destination for customers and retailers at the moment," Florkowski said.
Newmarket has one of the highest retail rental rates in New Zealand, also affecting its tenancy mix, he said.
Florkowski said the outlook for the retail district looked positive heading into next year, and once the mall re-opened.
But it would be hard for Newmarket to reinvent itself and rise to become the shopping destination it had historically been, he said.
"Sylvia Park is really staking its claim at the moment as one of Auckland's more attractive shopping destinations, and they are continuing to expand and build as opposed to Newmarket which is almost resetting a little bit by demolishing a large portion of their identity," he said.
A number of mall-based retailers had moved to high street locations when the mall closed in February, Florkowski said. "Some of the challenges they are going to have going forward is how they activate surrounding areas once 277 comes back to life."
Newmarket Business Association chief executive Mark Knoff-Thomas said the area was going through a period of significant change.
"We have a few 'for lease' signs and we always have had a few, and it's not as bad as it was about four or five years ago, that's for sure," Knoff-Thomas said.
"A lot of things are at play, for example, some of the sites that are for lease are on demolition clauses.
"We have a lot of development going on like the rest of Auckland central; we seem to be a traffic cone mecca at the moment and that can be attributed to the massive redevelopments taking place at Westfield Scentre Group and other things going on down the side streets as well," he said. "A couple of businesses who may not have been trading as well as they could prior to the development have probably found it quite challenging and have made the decision to move on."
Westfield said it was working hard to keep disruption to a minimum.
We seem to be a traffic cone mecca at the moment and that can be attributed to the massive redevelopments taking place.
Despite disruption, Knoff-Thomas said trade in Newmarket was "really good".
"Westfield is about 25 per cent of our total economy and for the March quarter we expected to take a 25 per cent cut in terms of our overall turnover but we didn't, we were down about 18 per cent.
"Some places will have shut down because they are suffering due to reduced foot traffic in their particular place in the precinct, but by and large, across the precinct it's very relaxed and some retailers will say things are pretty good," he said.
"Newmarket at the moment is going through a period of adjustment and is basically reinventing itself. We may be going through a bit of change but fast forward to 2019 and we're going to be the centre of retail and hospitality - it'll put us on the retail shopping map, globally.
"You're only as good as the brand you've got in your precinct and we're going to have some spectacular brands next year."
Sylvia Park's $223 million Galleria expansion and the $850 million, 39-level Commercial Bay tower are other retail projects under development in Auckland.
Commercial Bay will start to come to life from August with H&M set to be the first retailer to open and deadline for Westfield Newmarket is mid-to-end of 2019.
Florkowski said he didn't foresee one retail precinct to be more popular than another but was sceptical about the estimated completion times.
"There's pressure on the construction industry and even constraints around local shops building hundreds of stores at once, and they are trying to stage them in a way that will make it easier for the industry to handle," he said.
"There's only so much building the industry can handle at once."
Each shopping precinct catered for a different part of the market, he said.
"Commercial Bay is going to be relying on wider visitation from international tourists, the cruise ship market and even the resident population of commercial workers in the city... so they have a really strong catchment of professionals whereas in the Newmarket and Sylvia Park catchments are slightly different.
"Whilst they will be overlapping in certain areas, I think there's a strong enough differentiation, even with the retailers they have on board, to create a little bit of separation there," he said.
"I think we're going to be spoilt for choice, give it three years."