Hamilton CBD the winner from mall's $47m revamp

'People are coming back... the vibe is better'

LIBBY WILSON
Last updated 05:00 05/12/2013
Centre Place
MARK TAYLOR/Fairfax NZ

Renewed response: Centre Place is proving popular with shoppers.

Rachael Brooky
MARK TAYLOR/ Fairfax NZ
TRAFFIC PAYS: 3 Wise Men store manager Rachael Brooky says higher nearby foot traffic has boosted the number of customers.
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The Centre Place revamp has already attracted thousands to Hamilton's city centre, but the effects on nearby retailers are mixed.

On the morning of the mall's opening after a $47 million upgrade, a queue of around 1000 eager shoppers waited to get in.

Since then, retail portfolio manager for Kiwi Investment Property Trust Karl Retief said the new complex's foot traffic had experienced "double-digit growth" on last year.

However, he remained tight-lipped on the exact numbers because counts needed to be "validated".

"We're getting some substantial growth . . . We're definitely achieving and experiencing double-digit growth, and it's been like that since we opened on October 17," he said.

"I can't think of a retailer that I've spoken to that says it hasn't met their expectations or they're not achieving what they believed they would get in terms of the number of shoppers."

Feedback from shoppers showed the mall's atmosphere and mix of retailers were encouraging them back to the city, he said.

Tilly Peteru of Max in Centre Place agreed, and loved the store's new location.

"People are coming back to town, the vibe is better."

She and colleague Aurora Epplett had noticed clientele go from mainly businesswomen on a lunch break to include more "wanderers".

Hamilton Central Business Association general manager Sandy Turner said people were "absolutely raving" about the new Centre Place, and she was in no doubt about its positive effect.

It had brought more foot traffic into the CBD, she said, and new shops had appeared in Ward St since the mall opened - such as an outlet for fashion store The White Room and business shirt retailers 3 Wise Men.

"To me those are positive signs that people want to gravitate closer to this area."

For The White Room, opening a pop-up outlet store at the other end of Ward St has been a good move.

"We've definitely picked up a lot of new customers that weren't overly familiar with The White Room," said assistant designer for Nyne Phillip Hawkins.

"We were definitely after something with a bit more foot traffic . . . a bit more central, especially with the new developments being made we kind of wanted to . . . tap into the people that would be coming to see the new mall."

The store, set up around a month ago, was intended to be a short-term affair, but Hawkins said its success opened up the possibility of making it permanent.

Another new kid on the block - central Hamilton's 3 Wise Men shop - opened in Ward St last Friday.

Manager Rachael Brooky said the store had been "the very last stop of retail" in its previous location on Victoria St near Garden Place.

The new men's shirt shop was closer to the shopping hub, where there was more foot traffic - although Brooky said it wasn't all down to the new, improved Centre Place.

"[Foot traffic] probably has increased since it has opened, but I . . . have only been here since it's been open," she said.

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"But back when we were trying to decide whether or not to move, there was definitely more foot traffic here, and that was before it was developed."

Further down at Footloose, manager Diane Hart had noticed more people around the mall, but said there were too many empty shops in Ward St for that atmosphere to have a significant impact on her store.

Worley Place, Trade Aid shop manager Laurel Snowdon thinks they actually benefited while the mall was closed, and now foot traffic has decreased.

"Because there's no entrance here, and no cafe, they're bypassing Worley Place," she said.

- © Fairfax NZ News

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