The grand opening of a range of major international retailers is giving shoppers a reason to venture into the Auckland CBD this morning.

Prime Minister Jacinda Arden and Auckland Mayor Phil Goff were in attendance to cut the ribbon at the opening ceremony of the $1 billion Commercial Bay precinct in Queen St this morning.

Ardern praised the centre's nod to local New Zealand retailers and welcomed the opening of the space.

This comes at an important moment for the retail sector, which faced enormous pressure during the lockdown.

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Precinct Properties chairman Craig Stobo said he agreed with Ardern's comments earlier in the week, encouraging Kiwis back into city centres.

Despite the recent drop to level 1, business has been slow to pick up, with many Kiwis opting to continue working from home.

READ MORE: • Watch: First look inside Commercial Bay - opening date revealed

It is hoped that retailers Ecoya, Tommy Hilfiger, Scotch & Soda, Calvin Klein and Aotea will attract consumers back to CBD with their first exclusive stores in New Zealand.

About 120 retailers in total will open stores in the 18,000sq m shopping centre, a mix of fashion, beauty and food operators, including internationally acclaimed restaurants and a 650-seat dining hall called Harbour Eats.

Located at the base of the new PwC Tower, Commercial Bay is made up of eight separate buildings joined by bridges and open-air laneways over three levels. Ground floor and level one are home to mostly fashion retailers, cafes and restaurants, level two features Harbour Eats with more than 26 food vendors, and beauty services such as hairdresser Loxy's and a nail bar.

The Little Queen St laneway on the ground floor, inspired by Melbourne's thriving side streets, was designed as a nod to New Zealand designers, and will house Superette, Twenty-Seven Names, Ingrid Starnes, Storm and Elle + Riley, among others.

Downtown Auckland has some of the highest concentration of jobs in the country, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern told attendees at the opening.

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Arden also acknowledged the centre's nod to Auckland CBD's history.

The grand opening of the mall was attended by around 300 people this morning. Photo / Alex Burton
The grand opening of the mall was attended by around 300 people this morning. Photo / Alex Burton

Other retailers in the centre include Edmund Hillary, London-based fashion retailer Cos, General Pants, Husk, Kate Spade, Lululemon, Mecca, Hugo Boss and Hershel Supply Co.

Luxury handbag brand Furla, Barkers, 3 Wise Men, Kookai, Just Another Fisherman, Sandro & Maje, Storm, Federation, Asics, Icebreaker, Ripcurl, L'Occitane, Solect and Parfums Christian Dior, will also open stores today.

Restaurants in the precinct include acclaimed New York restaurant Saxon & Parole, Ghost Donkey which specialises in Mexican cuisine, Japanese fusion restaurant The Poni Club, Mimi Gilmour's Burger Burger, Hawker and Roll, Gochu, Good Dog Bad Dog and London cocktail bar called Genuine Liquorette.

Attendees were eager to get a first look at some of the major retailers opening their doors in New Zealand. Photo / Alex Burton
Attendees were eager to get a first look at some of the major retailers opening their doors in New Zealand. Photo / Alex Burton

Commercial Bay has been under construction for the past four years and faced a string of opening delays. More than 8000 workers have been working on the site over past four years and about 500 people have been on-site daily as the final work is completed in lead-up to opening.

Heart of the City chief executive Viv Beck said the opening of Commercial Bay would be a "welcome sign of recovery" and draw people back into the city centre.

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Both trade and foot traffic in the Auckland CBD is down about 40 per cent on levels recorded this time last year. Beck said this would likely recover over the next few weeks.

A band entertains the crowd. Photo / Aimee Shaw
A band entertains the crowd. Photo / Aimee Shaw

The opening of Commercial Bay came at a good time, she said.

"We certainly hope it is a drawcard to come back.

"The opening marks a huge milestone in the city and we're excited that it's not too far away until the adjacent waterfront area will complement this unique site as a memorable place for Aucklanders to enjoy with their family and friends," she said.

Beck said the trans-Tasman travel bubble and the return of international students would make a big difference to spending levels in the CBD.

Auckland Mayor Phil Goff said the opening of Commercial Bay would "add to the confidence that will bring recovery" to New Zealand.

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Prior to Covid-19, about 15 million people visit downtown Auckland each year.