The rivalry between the Hunter’s suburban shopping juggernauts has reached new heights, with redevelopments by the three major malls topping a billion dollars as they vie for shoppers’ loyalty and disposable cash.
A Newcastle Herald analysis suggests the total worth of expansions to Charlestown Square, Stockland Green Hills and Westfield Kotara has soared to more than $1.1 billion since 2010.
It comes amid weak retail figures, a drift from bricks and mortar to online shopping and the $750 million revitalisation of Hunter Street Mall in the inner city.
But the spending spree – and tussle to attract coveted international brands such as Zara and H&M to the Hunter – suggests a bullish outlook for the region’s suburban malls.
Charlestown Square, the region’s largest mall, has led the charge.
Two redevelopments since 2010 have cost owner GPT Group around $515 million and have taken the centre’s total leasable floor space to 89,000 square metres.
A spokesperson said it had the most visitors of any centre in the region, at 14 million every year.
However she acknowledged the competitive retail landscape in the Hunter.
“Competitor developments show confidence in the region and it’s good for customers,” she said.
“Our focus at Charlestown Square is continuing to evolve our offer to meet the expectations of our market and enhance our market leadership position.”
In a coup for the centre, it has been able to secure luxury beauty retailers Mecca Maxima and Sephora in the last two years, along with Swedish fashion giant H&M.
But it appears Westfield Kotara is set to return serve this year.
Documents provided to the Newcastle Herald by its owner, Scentre Group, indicate its $160 million redevelopment will be anchored by Zara and another H&M store.
Once completed, the centre will span about 82,000 square metres.
“The development will bring 30 new stores, including reintroducing a new Kmart, JB Hifi and Toys R Us as well as two international mini-majors to the centre,” a Scentre Group spokeswoman said.
It comes after the unveiling of The Rooftop in 2015, a $55 million outdoor dining and entertainment precinct.
Meanwhile, Stockland Green Hills has cut the ribbon on a $414 million overhaul, with the fourth and final stage completed on Thursday.
The redevelopment has more than doubled the size of the centre to 74,000 square metres, in a bid to capture valuable trade lost to larger malls in Newcastle and outside the Hunter.
Stockland has calculated the “escape expenditure” from the area each year at $1.132 billion.
”The $414 million redevelopment of Stockland Green Hills is the largest retail redevelopment ever undertaken for the Stockland portfolio,” said Peter Hugh, the Stockland Green Hills project director.
“With so many new brands and retailers, Stockland Green Hills is set to be the premier retail, entertainment and dining destination for the Hunter region – on par with any leading regional shopping centre in Australia.
“The new Stockland Green Hills is not just about shopping, it’s about delivering an unparalleled retail experience for the community, where people can meet, eat, socialise, be entertained and just relax.”