Visitor numbers to Sylvia Park, the country's largest shopping mall, have bounced back strongly following the lockdown - surprising the property's owner.
Kiwi Property says foot traffic to Sylvia Park is down just 9 per cent compared to this time last year. This comes as shoppers in recent days have rushed back to the shops following lockdown restrictions lifting.
While it was too early to read into sales and transactions figures, indicators from the first five days of life under alert level 2 were encouraging, said Linda Trainer, Kiwi Property general manager of retail and asset management.
"Our pedestrian count is about 91 per cent of what we were this time last year so that's really positive," Trainer told the Herald.
"The result that we are seeing is better than anticipated. After being closed for effectively a two-month period, we weren't certain the response we would have from customers."
Last Thursday was a big day for the shopping centre, with queues of people lined up outside the mall ahead of its opening. There were also queues outside of Kmart and hair and nail salons over the weekend and in the first five days of open shutters, Trainer said.
Visitors through the mall on Monday were higher than those recorded on the same day last year, she said.
Kiwi Property was unable to share any shopper volume figures.
"The vibe was buzzing, people were in a good mood; retailers and customers were honestly pleased to see each other."
Shoppers were itching to get out and about and to stock up on winter clothing and essentials for the home, a hair cut and have their nails done, and telcos and beauty stores were being frequented, she said.
There did not appear to be any concern or anxiety about being out in a public venue among shoppers, she said, adding that the centre was no longer seeing crowds of customers and a pick-up in traffic at peak hours like it normally would, instead footfall had been "steady".
Customers appeared to be "more targeted in their shopping", coming to the centre with an idea of what they needed to buy as opposed to for a browse, she said.
Trainer said she hoped the early encouraging signs were a glimpse of what was to come as retail and other sectors of the economy navigate a recovery post Covid-19.
"We're feeling optimistic [about] the future of retail."
But Greg Harford, chief executive of Retail NZ, was not as optimistic.
Sales in the retail sector have been down by almost 80 per cent over the past two months as the country hunkered down into the safety of their homes.
Harford told the Herald the sector would likely experience an initial spike in spending as shops re-open, but this would likely drop off in weeks to come.
"It is going to take a lot of time for sales levels to return to where they were pre-lockdown.
"My expectation is that sales will be down [post-lockdown], part of that is because consumers just aren't confident, part of that is because some consumers don't want to get out and about and part of that is because household incomes are a bit squeezed."
He anticipates sales in May to be at about 60 or 70 per cent of typical levels.
Figures from Paymark, which processes 75 per cent of the country's electronic transactions, show that spending was up significantly as New Zealand moved down alert levels - but not everyone is getting the benefit.
Petrol stations, clothing and book stores and restaurants are among financial losers while supermarkets have been making significantly more money than last year, according to the latest data.
Retail spending during level 4 was about half what it was last year; if supermarkets, liquor stores and pharmacies are excluded, spending was down by 90 per cent.
For the week ending May 17 - which included some level 3 and level 2 days - spending was down just 11 per cent on the same week in 2019. Without supermarkets, liquor stores and pharmacies, spending that week was down 26 per cent year on year.
The previous week in level 3 saw total retail spend down 35 per cent or 66 per cent with liquor stores, pharmacies and supermarkets excluded.
While supermarkets and dairies have seen higher spending in all three levels, petrol station spend has been down ever since level 4 started at the end of March.
Spending at pharmacies and fruit and vege shops are trading about 27 per cent above 2019 levels in level 2, while spending at takeaway shops, specialist food stores, liquor stores, garden centres and shops selling goods like appliances, electronics and hardware are up about 30 per cent.
Restaurants, cafes, clothing, sports equipment and book shops saw minimal spending in level 4 and 3 and are still down about 7 per cent on 2019 in level 2.
Spending on beauty and hairdressing is up 61 per cent on last year in level 2.
Retail NZ anticipates initial spikes in spending at the start of level 2 will drop off over the next couple of weeks.