When the earthquake struck in 2011, Eastgate mall suffered badly.
The mall had to close for six months to rebuild and owners NPT Limited had to figure out a way to rise from the rubble.
However, it was dealt another blow when Farmers Trading Company decided to pull out of the shopping centre and put a larger store in at nearby Hornby Mall.
“That prompted us to step back and have a really good strategic look about what were going to do with [the mall],” NPT chief executive Kerry Hitchcock says.
“To lose a 6000 square metre tenant, your anchor tenant, as a result of the earthquake in the most economically challenged area in Christchurch is a pretty major issue.”
He says NPT decided to look at what customers wanted from a shopping centre.
They carried out research through focus groups and gained some interesting insight into the Christchurch shopper’s mind.
They found that Christchurch residents were quite restricted in getting around due to the roading and infrastructure being dramatically affected by the earthquake.
“Because the CBD has been effectively destroyed they have to get that retail experience in their local area,” Hitchcock says.
“Communities are tending to stay, shop, eat, entertain in their patch. The less they have to travel, the better.”
NPT decided to target its strategy at developing a community-based town centre.
The library that was wrecked during the earthquake moved in upstairs, as well as a medical centre that used to be opposite the centre.
A group of NGOs, including Women’s Refuge and Red Cross, joined the party, moving in beside the medical centre.
Physiotherapists, radiology, a gym and a bank are now also a part of the mix.
These diverse additions to the mall have turned out to be a win-win for everyone involved.
The library has 30,000 people visit it a month, so Eastgate Mall experienced a huge increase in foot traffic while the library secured a new home.
Other shops began feeding off the confidence of increased foot traffic and improving their offering, Hitchcock says.
The Warehouse also signed a lease committing to another 12 years, which he says is a vote of confidence.
The mall is now expanding its offering even more. Consent has been approved for two restaurants to go in and resource consent is underway for additional shops.
“If you can get more people there, you can better tenants to give a better offering,” Hitchcock says.
One of the gaps that needs to be filled in Eastgate’s well-rounded offering is more shops for blokes.
When the company held research focus groups, the comment that popped up time and time again was that men’s shops are lacking, he says.
Electronic, automotive, and entertainment stores are being sought after for a 3900 square metre block of shops that’s aimed at men.
Hitchcock says there’s been considerable interest already from tenants meeting the criteria and he thinks it will most likely go ahead.
He says considering 10 percent of the surrounding catchment has moved away from the area, what they’ve achieved in retail is pretty special.
“People in the area have been lost, but we’ve increased foot traffic by 30 percent,” He says.
“We must be doing something right.”