Queenstown is one of New Zealand’s most rapidly expanding retail markets, and the rise doesn’t look set to slow down anytime soon. The area surrounding Queenstown Airport, the Frankton Flats, has been a hotspot for developers in the last 15 years and development is only getting bigger.
The hub of shopping for locals, Remarkables Park, was joined in the Frankton market last year by a new development, Five Mile Retail Centre. The new centre opened in the midst of 2015’s retail boom in Queenstown Lakes.
More than 30 new shops and food outlets opened their doors last year. According to developers, there’s plenty of demand still to meet. It took nearly six years for Five Mile to go from a “$20 million hole in the ground” to the commercial development that opened last October – years of setbacks and financial insecurity delayed plans going ahead.
The retail centre has become a hub for a new type of shopping in Queenstown – big-box retail outlets. Countdown, Briscoes, Rebel Sports and Warehouse Stationery are all new additions to the Queenstown retail scene. File Mile also boasts a Hardy’s Health, a pharmacy, CrossFit gym, lighting specialists, insurance agents, a laundromat and a skate shop.
Stage two of Five Mile began construction in April. At least half a dozen more retail businesses are set to lease new spaces, the first of which will open in October and the balance opening in early 2017. Five Mile developer Tony Gapes said in January that demand was continuing to grow.
Remarkables Park is well-established. The first part of the centre was completed in 2000 with construction of a New World supermarket, The Warehouse, Mitre 10, Element Sports store and H&J Smith Homewares.
Since Five Mile opened, Remarkables Park has lost a big-box retailer. Mitre 10 closed late last year and reopened as the much larger Mitre 10 Mega hardware store. The Warehouse is also considering a move to the newer development – where it could expand to a larger site.
In the meantime, Remarkables Park has developed a new strategy for retail: a holistic approach to development. Remarkables Park corporate affairs manager Lisa Nilsen said their master plan was to create the second biggest town centre, after downtown Queenstown.
“You can live at Remarkables Park, you can study here, work here and play here. We are a community hub,” she said.
Remarkables Park currently has 3.5 million visitors annually, which is expected to grow with its continued expansion. There are currently seven development projects underway on the site, including the Ramada Hotel, which opens to the public next week.
A new office building is being built, along with a large entertainment development for leisure activities, and another hotel was announced last week. Wakatipu High School will relocate to Remarkables Park from its current site in downtown Queenstown in 2018. And future development of the Frankton Flats doesn’t stop there.
Across the road from Five Mile is another new commercial development – Queenstown Central Limited. General manager Simon Holloway said 4.7 hectares of land has been designed for a retail centre.
“We’ve signed up an anchor tenant and we’ll be able to develop about 19,000 square metres of retail space.”
The new development will have a different focus from Five Mile – with speciality food and beverage outlets creating a main street-type vibe.
“There’s definitely a demand for it. In Queenstown the market is playing catch up at the moment,” he said.
“New retailers are coming into the area off the back of an under supply of retail in the past.”
The first stores are set to open in 2017. Queenstown Chamber of Commerce chief executive Ann Lockhart said while the vast majority of retail spend was in downtown Queenstown, visitors spend at the Frankton Flats too.
“Lots of visitors are in self-catering apartments and they go out there for the two big supermarkets,” she said.
Queenstown is one of the fastest growing areas in New Zealand and there was always a demand for more retail, she said. The population of Queenstown has nearly doubled every 15 years since the 1950s. In 2013 the population of the Queenstown Lakes District was 28,224 – up from 17,043 in 2001. More than 2.9 million people visit Queenstown annually.
Steve Wilde, manager of Downtown Queenstown Association said spending on the Frankton flats had not affected spending in town.
“Retailers and hospitality providers in downtown Queenstown have just had their biggest summer ever and are looking at the biggest winter ever,” he said.
With the region’s population and visitor numbers growing at such a fast rate, the need for more and more commercial development was growing too, he said. While 20 years ago, big-box store such as Mitre 10 were in downtown Queenstown, the development of Frankton flat meant it didn’t need to be there anymore.
“What you see now is a consolidation of what downtown Queenstown really is, and that’s the centre of the tourism industry and the environment that has people travelling from all of the world to experience it.”
Shortage of land in Queenstown meant the Frankton flats was the perfect area to expand retail that didn’t require foot-traffic, he said.
“[Development in Frankton] has had a positive affect on the downtown, it’s allowed us to hone in one what we offer and become definite on what that is.”