Boosting Takapuna's retail appeal by injecting glamour and fashion is credited for a dramatic turnaround in the number of shops showing "to lease" signs.

The recession forced the closure of 40 businesses, including nine shops in the heart of the CBD, said Takapuna Beach Business Association general manager Peter White.

"We felt building upon the fashion retail presence would redefine Takapuna and bring it back to its glory days," he said.

"After six months, you can see foot traffic is up, the mood is upbeat and we are down to three vacant stores.

"We are riding a wave of interest from retailers thinking of coming in."

Mr White said the association had won landlords' co-operation to hold out for quality retail tenants from other centres, who were being kept informed about coming vacancies.

Events to showcase fashion shops last month ended in a civic reception hosted by the North Shore City Council for prospective retail tenants.

In the past month, 19 new businesses have opened.

Many have found a home in The Department Store in Northcroft St, which officially opened on Friday, opposite the Sentinel apartment tower.

Developer Dave Donaldson said he persuaded designer Karen Walker to open an outlet there in the open-plan, two-storey former post office, shared with other fashion-related businesses.

"It's a cool mix."

Mr Donaldson, who helped transform a dairy into a successful Takapuna beachfront cafe, said it was sad how the town centre had lost shops and shoppers in recent years.

"It's got a lot going for it with its setting of beach and lake.

"It's a matter of getting some excitement back into the town."

Retailer Michael Sheehy said the turnaround was an outstanding feat.

"There is a mix of businesses coming in and we are now seeing Takapuna as a hot place to be.

"High performers are looking at Takapuna in a different light and the quality of businesses is the best we have seen."

Commercial landlord and Takapuna Community Board chairman Martin Lawes said the CBD appeared more prosperous.

The test of the association's efforts to attract retailers would come in a year or two when people decided whether to renew their leases.

Mr Lawes said the city council had done well by improving the amenity of the CBD for shoppers and giving up revenue by allowing two free hours of parking in council carparks.