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Shopping locally comes back into focus

Tags: Commercial

A fresh appreciation of local neighbourhoods, brought about in part by the COVID-19 pandemic environment, is resulting in a resurgence in suburban retail hubs.


The ongoing success of Ormiston Town Centre will lie in its ability to reflect and provide for the needs of its community.

Chris Beasleigh

Chris Beasleigh, Bayleys national director retail sales and leasing, says changes to how and where people work, and the extended time being spent at home, has heightened the appeal of established neighbourhood and suburban shopping centres as well as new-to-market retail/mixed-use developments.

“With a forced work-from-home directive during the height of lockdowns and the subsequent normalisation of a hybrid way of working, local shops and service retailers are very much in favour as people establish closer ties with their communities.”

Beasleigh says suburban shopping centres tend to have plenty of (usually) free parking, are well-located along main arterials and close to public transport nodes, and are high on the convenience scale.

“Along with the traditional corner store, service-orientated and boutique retail operators with a true customer focus and points of difference are thriving in local neighbourhoods. Many smaller retail businesses are driving their profile via social media channels and showing that if you have the right product, people will seek you out.

“We’ve seen a surge in hairdressers, nail salons, florists, butchers and artisan food stores, and a resurgence in specialty bookstores – feel-good businesses that people want to support.”

A new neighbourhood retail hub which Bayleys’ specialist retail division has been sourcing tenants for has resonated with businesses looking to cement a presence in the long-established central Auckland suburb of Pt. Chevalier.

Dean Whimp, a director of Frontier Properties, says a previously under-utilised, high-profile corner site near a Countdown supermarket was a real gem in the suburb which had seen little to no investment in its retail property stock for decades and clearly needed new amenity to service the growing population.

“This is an historic neighbourhood precinct which is slowly being regenerated. Having been involved in numerous suburban retail projects over the last 10 years, we have a very good understanding of what works and what doesn’t.

“We have secured a good mix of tenants including Flex Fitness Gym, which occupies the entire first floor. Its early commitment to the site helped to attract other tenants.” These include a chiropractor and physiotherapy clinic, Auckland’s first café under the South Island-based Black and White Coffee Cartel brand, and hotdog eatery Good Dog Bad Dog.

Whimp says the power of neighbourhood retail and service hubs cannot be underestimated – particularly post-COVID where people are spending more time working from home. “They want to be able to walk or take a short vehicle trip to the gym or a health-related appointment, and to frequent a café where they meet up with other locals, and get to know the business owners.”

Chris Beasleigh says Auckland’s population growth and the associated escalation of new, master-planned mixed-use residential and commercial precincts is also shining a light on the “one-stop” live, work, play model and supporting new larger purpose-built retail centres.

He says the Ormiston Town Centre, which lies at the heart of one of Auckland’s most comprehensively-planned new suburbs, is a good example of this. Todd Property Group partnered with council controlled Eke Panuku Development Auckland on the $250 million-plus project, which is part of a wider 19-hectare development around Ormiston Road in south-east Auckland – an area with a rapidly-growing population.

Sean Leonard, development manager at Todd Property Group, said around 88,000 people now call Ormiston and neighbouring Flat Bush home and that’s set to grow further. “When opening Ormiston Town Centre, we had a solid foundation to build on as Ormiston was a one-of-a-kind, existing community waiting for much-needed, everyday conveniences and service offerings.

“The town centre has grocery stores, gyms, health and beauty services, large and small retail offerings and when teamed with a strong food and beverage offering centred in The Eatery space, we’re confident in the blueprint we’ve created for an evolving community.”

Anchor large format tenants include PAK’nSAVE, New World, The Warehouse, Noel Leeming and HOYTS. Leonard says these give confidence to smaller, first-time operators by generating all-important foot traffic.

Ample car parking and ease of access were priority considerations when planning the town centre, which has more than 1,300 free car parking spaces, designated mobility and parents’ spaces, and electric vehicle charging stations. There are also generous open and engaging public spaces in The Eatery, The Square and The Market.

Leonard says while the centre has experienced very positive feedback, its ongoing success will lie in its ability to reflect and provide for the needs of the community and the growing catchment it is servicing. “For this to happen, there needs to be a process of constant evaluation and assessment of the centre's retail and service offerings, to ensure that we stay relevant.”

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