Four of New Zealand's largest shopping centres are a focus for ASX-listed Scentre Group as it finishes Newmarket and looks to expand St Lukes and Albany.

Shareholders last week heard how the board had crossed the Tasman last year to look more closely at Westfields at Albany, Newmarket, St Lukes, Manukau, and Riccarton in Christchurch, with plans afoot to expand further in two other Auckland malls.

In the almost five years since it was founded, Scentre has never put so much money into a single property as Westfield Newmarket where $790m is being spent.

"During 2018, the board toured our five assets in New Zealand with a particular focus on Westfield Newmarket which at $790m is the largest development we have undertaken," chairman Brian Schwartz told shareholders at their recent annual meeting.


Scentre plans to redevelop and expand St Lukes and build at least two towers at Albany for offices and accommodation, but little has so far emerged on those schemes.

Scentre is Australia's 15th largest listed company by market capitalisation, Schwartz said.
Its market cap is around A$20.68b.

Schwartz said: "We have seven of the top 10 centres in Australasia and four of the top five centres in New Zealand."

NZX-listed Kiwi Property has Sylvia Park, the only top-5 New Zealand mall Scentre does not own but Schwartz did not name that directly.

More than a third of Scentre's outlets now sell experiences that can only consume on-site in a shift towards an entirely new retail model.

Chief executive Peter Allen, explained that.

"More than 35 per cent of the stores across our portfolio offer experiences which can only be consumed on-site. Across the five developments we opened during the year, more than half of the new stores offer experiences," Allen said.

"More than ever before, our customers want to come to our centres for much more than shopping," he said.

Plans for one of the light atriums in the new centre. Photo/Scentre Group
Plans for one of the light atriums in the new centre. Photo/Scentre Group

He did not mention activities explicitly, but the development of bigger and more luxurious cinemas, bars, restaurants, cafes, landscaped outdoor areas with casual seating and an entertainment focus is a trend in mall redevelopment and expansion.

Scentre held its annual meeting on Thursday at Pitt St's Wesley Conference Centre.

Allen also said there that with a usage or function change in shopping centres came a language change.

"You will note that we refer to living centres more frequently. This is because they are more than places where people come to shop. Our centres are extraordinary places where our customers come to gather and socialise, be entertained, dine, access services and experiences and shop. Our ability to curate retail, service, and experience offers that meet customers' expectations is what sets us apart," Allen told shareholders.

But one Auckland finance expert said today some mall offerings in the on-site-consumption sector struggle.

"Food & beverage operators have gone bust in some Australian malls and these places may be more cyclical and risky than some mall owners may have us believe," he said.

Westfield Newmarket will have a new seven-theatre Event Cinema with one surround-screen style theatre, Rooftop on Broadway dining precinct at 309 Broadway, linked via a glass air bridge to the existing 277 Broadway site. Level four is devoted to dining with exits and entrances to cinemas.

Level five is all dining and entertainment, to be heavily landscaped.

All up, more than 30 bars and restaurants are planned for Rooftop on Broadway and Scentre chief operating officer Greg Miles visited Newmarket last Monday to conduct the first large media preview of the project, to be finished before Christmas.

Allen said Scentre's 41 "living centres" or malls in Australasia got 535m customer visits last year, sold 7.5 per cent of all retail sales in Australia and introduced 437 new brands.

Scentre completed more than A$1.1b of developments.

Plans Westfield Newmarket's entertainment/dining precinct. Photo/Scentre Group
Plans Westfield Newmarket's entertainment/dining precinct. Photo/Scentre Group

Allen said it added 106,000sq m of floorspace last year at Westfield Plenty Valley in Melbourne, Westfield Carousel in Perth, Westfield Tea Tree Plaza in Adelaide, Westfield Kotara in Newcastle and Westfield Coomera on Queensland's Gold Coast.

Scentre is Australia's 15th largest listed company by market capitalisation, Schwartz said.

Current market cap is A$20.68b.

Scentre owns 51 per cent of the five malls, with the remaining 49 per cent owned by a Singaporean government entity.

Broadway show: exterior plans for Westfield Newmarket. Photo/Scentre Group
Broadway show: exterior plans for Westfield Newmarket. Photo/Scentre Group

Scentre's full-year results for 2018 showed how retailers trading from four shopping centres pushed up sales $400m to make $1.6 billion in the latest year, with Christchurch the most lucrative place.

Retailers at Westfield Riccarton made $535.6m annual sales (last year $531.3m), Albany $422.8m (previously $407.7m), St Lukes $363.1m (previously $347m), and Manukau $293.4m (previously $280.9m).

Westfield Newmarket did not appear on the list because it has been shut for more than a year for the redevelopment.

In 2017, retailers made $1.56m sales at the five centres, Scentre reported.