One of New Zealand’s largest new shopping centres is unfurling at the meeting of three highways in the fast-growing Tauranga Region. Its design takes into account New Zealand shoppers’ need for high-quality food and beverage offerings, experiential spaces and a connection to the outdoors; and it’s going to be a serious contender in New Zealand’s fastest-growing regional economy by the end of this year.
The Pak’n Save test
“We’re going big, effectively,” says Tauranga Crossing chief executive Steve Lewis. “The biggest retail development in the Bay of Plenty.”
Already a significant offering as it stands, the centre is set to be one of the most impressive malls in the country when it’s completed. It’s expected to be around 70,000 square metres of indoor and outdoor shopping and lifestyle space by the time all three planned stages plus the lifestyle centre for large-format retail open.
Stage One has already launched. The 17,500 square metre town centre welcomed shoppers in during September 2016, and houses some service, general retail, restaurants and eateries, plus a Warehouse Stationery; a Noel Leeming; The Warehouse and Jon Morrison’s Pak’n Save.
Morrison, who owns and operates Pak’n Save Tauriko at the centre, says the store has already outperformed his expectations. The 5,500 square metre store employs around 140 staff and thanks to Tauranga Crossing’s positioning near three major highways, welcomes customers from a total trade area of 284,370 shoppers. This catchment means great prospects for growth.
“We know exactly where we’re at and where we’re heading to,” Morrison says. “We work together.”
“It’s about working together to deliver a shopping experience that keeps people coming back again and again.”
Asked for an example of this collaboration, Morrison says when the first stage of the centre opened, some customers gave feedback that the disabled carparks were not in the right place. His team approached Tauranga Crossing management with this feedback and the car parks were adjusted accordingly.
The Tauranga region is growing fast, Morrison says, and his supermarket’s location means it’s well-positioned to offer Pak’n Save’s groceries to many new locals. Pak’n Save Tauriko has put a lot of effort into tailoring its range to the Tauranga demographic, and will further develop the store as Tauranga Crossing grows.
“There’s residential developments for years to come, and we’re already experiencing significant growth over where we were when we opened.”
Morrison won’t reveal specific figures about Pak’n Save Tauriko’s year-on-year growth, but confirms it’s “well into the double digits”.
“We’ll grow and develop to whatever’s required as the centre and our customers grow,” he says.
The next big thing
Tauranga Crossing is independently owned by New Zealanders, and is managed in-house. The company engages Oyster Property Group Limited as the asset manager but all key strategic decisions are made by Tauranga Crossing’s owners and executive team.
“The success of the Pak’n Save, to us, demonstrates the strength of the location,” Steve Lewis says. “This gives us the confidence to develop future stages.”
Leasing manager Ronan McGinley’s team is currently leasing spaces for Stage Two, which will include around 90 retailers and restaurants and will be complete by April 2019. Fashion retailers, a dining precinct, eateries, as well as a general retail precinct with banks, bookshops, giftware, homeware and health and beauty retailers will seamlessly blend together in the 18,000 square metre Stage Two area.
Stage Two will also be home to a six-screen Event cinema complex with the first purpose-built Vmax offering in New Zealand.
Vmax is Event’s premium cinema experience, with a 24-metre curved screen and Dolby Atmos surround sound. Lewis says Tauranga Crossing’s complex will have the ability to digitally live-stream sports events and concerts, which will draw in even more cinema-goers to the centre. The complex will house more than 1,000 seats.
The Tauranga Crossing team know that customers’ hunger for experiential activations has driven food and beverage to become an essential ingredient in any successful retail mix, and so they’ve carefully planned a show-stopper of a dining precinct.
Food and beverage is key
“For shopping centres to do well, they need a strong experiential element,” Lewis says. “Shoppers love to dine, play, have fun with friends and family, and this is going to be a great place to come and do that.”
The two-level dining precinct that McGinley refers to as “the next generation of dining and leisure precincts” makes up a large part of Stage Two. It boasts fifteen metre-high glass walls across the side of the building overlooking a quarter-acre garden, creating a conservatory effect with a covered area to accommodate diners on balmy as well as rainy evenings.
As with many New Zealanders’ own homes, indoor-outdoor flow has been an important part of Tauranga Crossing’s design.
“Our experience is that Kiwis really like to dine outside in good weather and be protected from the elements on rainy days,” Lewis says. “In New Zealand, it does rain, and one of the last things our customers want is to sit outside and dine in the rain, so there’ll be lots of indoor dining options too.”
McGinley says the quality of the dining options was crucially important for his team: “We really want to get the best restaurants and eateries that we possibly can in Tauranga.”
He anticipates there will be a mixture of locals and well-known operators from around New Zealand.
The eateries are arranged into two levels. Those wanting takeaways, such as local Tauriko Business Estate workers and families from nearby residential developments like The Lakes, can get in and out quickly on the bottom level; while customers preferring a fast-casual restaurant or a licensed venue with table service can dine upstairs.
Lewis says the fashion shopper will find plenty to interest them at Tauranga Crossing.
“We expect to be delivering quite a curated fashion precinct for these shoppers,” he says, “and we would like to provide somewhere welcoming for them to have lunch or a glass of wine.”
He believes the dining area will encourage Tauranga Crossing’s shoppers to stay longer at the centre. They might catch a movie and have dinner afterwards, doing some shopping in between.
“I think [the dining precinct] is going to really add to the buzz and the atmosphere of going to the movies,” Lewis says.
But what about the car parks?
“We know for our customers, one of their greatest concerns is ‘Will I find a park?’” says Lewis. “So, we’ve centralised our parking in one area to make it easier to find and navigate.”
Stage One of Tauranga Crossing currently offers 800 car parks. This will grow to 1500 by April 19 when Stage Two opens. All parks will be centralised in a single area around the shopping centre, which will include a 350-park multidisc. All parking will be free for shoppers.
Big names are coming
Lewis can’t name any names yet, but he promises Tauranga residents will see some significant new retail brands among those to be unveiled when Stage Two opens: “There will definitely be retailers new to Tauranga.”
The two-level fashion area planned for Stage Two will offer an aspirational mix of fashion, youth, and premium or mature brands. An international fashion retailer not currently in Tauranga is taking a significant site.
McGinley says fashion is “crucial” to Tauranga Crossing, but only part of the mix of local, national and international retailers. The centre is so large that it doesn’t have to specialise.
“With the scale of what we’re developing, we expect to cater for every customer, no matter what they’re looking for.”
In the separate lifestyle centre nearby, there’s a Gilmour’s to open in April and a full Farmers department store by November this year. Slated to hit 23,000 square metres upon final completion, the lifestyle centre itself would be considered a decent-sized shopping centre in many parts of New Zealand. It’s for large format retailers and big-box retailers which don’t fit into the standard shopping centre format.
McGinley wants local retailers to make Tauranga Crossing their own: “As with the dining precinct, we want local involvement.”
Tauranga’s rapid population growth and strong demographic means this upmarket new retail development has attracted attention already, Lewis says.
“Because of the growth in Tauranga, we’re expecting demand from local, national and international retailers, including from retailers local to Tauranga who want to expand their existing business.”
The first two stages of Tauranga Crossing have generated so much interest that the third stage of the centre is already being planned.
“We have sufficient demand from international retailers to expect to develop Stage Three soon after Stage Two,” McGinley says.
Lewis says retailers can draw peace of mind from the local ownership of Tauranga Crossing: “It’s all under one ownership, on the same land, and all happening now or soon.”
Why the Bay of Plenty?
The Bay of Plenty region, which encompasses Tauranga, Rotorua, Whakatane and a number of smaller towns, is New Zealand’s fifth-largest and fastest-growing regional economy.
Tauranga Crossing’s location, connecting Tauranga with Auckland, Hamilton and Rotorua, means it’s benefited from the rise of those two economies – Auckland is two and a half hours away, and Hamilton just one hour and fifteen minutes.
The closest residential development to Tauranga Crossing is The Lakes, which is directly opposite the centre. Currently, The Lakes is 75 percent complete, and when the development is finished, it is expected there will be 2,081 dwellings and more than 7,000 permanent residents anticipated to be living there.
Also in Tauranga Crossing’s immediate vicinity is the rapidly-expanding Tauriko Business Estate. As of February 2017, the area had 94 businesses employing more than 2,000 people. It’s expected to accommodate a working population of around 5,000 full-time staff by 2031.
Despite the Tauranga region’s tempting demographic and rapid growth, retail development in the area has previously been limited. Within its local context, Lewis says, the Tauranga Crossing centre is competitive in every way, from its scale and format to its design and retail range.
“The region does not currently have an all-weather shopping destination that provides cinema, dining and fashion, combined with a discount department store and supermarket,” says Lewis. “Tauranga Crossing will be the only one-stop shopping destination in the Bay of Plenty.”
“The scale gives us the ability to provide the broadest and best range, including international retailers not currently in the region.”
Tauranga Crossing’s location at the intersection of State Highway 36, State Highway 29 and Route K which connects the centre to the CBD was chosen for its accessibility. McGinley says approximately 18,000 cars go past Tauranga Crossing every day.
“We’re providing the scale, the new offering, but also all the convenience.”
The New Zealand Transport Agency intends to continue to invest in transport links in this area, with a total of $591 million planned for Bay of Plenty roading across 2015-2018. Of this, $255 million is targeted at local road and state highway improvements.
Cruise ships are also part of the retail landscape in Tauranga, with an estimated 89 ships expected to visit the busy Port of Tauranga this year. The port is New Zealand’s largest by cargo volume.