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How Auckland Airport is transforming outlet shopping for New Zealanders

(Source: Supplied)

New Zealand shoppers will get a warm welcome to what a truly international modern retail outlet centre can offer when Auckland Airport opens its new purpose-built Mānawa Bay premium outlet shopping destination in 2024.

Five years in the planning, Mānawa Bay will embrace its park-like location on the Manukau Harbour on the northeastern edge of the Auckland Airport precinct. And, as shown in detailed plans unveiled by Auckland Airport this week, it will set a new benchmark for outlet shopping in a premium purpose-built centre that will provide space to connect customers to more than 100 international and New Zealand brands.  

With initial earthworks for its building platform on a 150,000sqm site completed, the development has reached another construction milestone with the next phase of work to start in spring. When completed it will offer a light-filled, architecturally striking home for 100 stores across 24,000sqm of retail space and stores ranging in size from 50sqm to 1500sqm.

“Our vision,” says Mark Thomson, GM property and commercial at the airport, of this $200 million-plus investment, “is to inspire New Zealanders with the best imaginable outlet shopping experience”. 

The outlet centre has been named Mānawa Bay, reflecting the airport’s unique location on the Māngere Peninsula and the historical and cultural significance of this area to tangata whenua. In te reo Māori, Mānawa means mangroves – a coastal plant species that have long featured in the waterways surrounding the land Auckland Airport sits on. Auckland Airport is working closely with local iwi on the project.

A leading shopping destination for an untapped market 

Research by Forward Insight in 2021 found that while 65 per cent of Aucklanders intended to visit the centre so, strikingly, did 58 per cent of respondents from elsewhere in New Zealand – many of whom would either make a dedicated trip, or time their Auckland travel plans for an all-day shopping visit. 

Outlet shopping centres are enjoying a revival around the world, says Graham Taylor, the principal architect of TRCB, who is leading the design of the outlet centre and whose firm also led the design of the DFO Perth outlet centre at Perth Airport. 

“Today’s customers want authentic, convenient shopping experiences with a multitude of choice. Premium outlet centres are growing as a distinct and popular retail category, particularly at airport locations,” said Taylor. “They’re no longer a place just to buy seconds or last season’s fashion goods at discount prices – they’ve evolved to a much more upmarket and immersive shopping experience.

“With a food-and-beverage area at the heart of the centre, it will offer indoor/outdoor seating and large windows maximising water views, natural light and northern sun. The interior will be purposefully pared-back, with polished concrete floors and an overall industrial finish, apart from customer amenities such as the bathrooms which are modelled on a resort hotel style.

“We’re creating a space every customer feels comfortable in, whether shopping for a new t-shirt or high-end fashion accessories.”

Thomson says the airport will not only be the country’s leading outlet shopping destination: “We will be providing an exciting and rewarding experience in a uniquely New Zealand way, connecting shoppers to the best international and local brands.

“Mānawa Bay will provide a wide variety of fashion, apparel and homeware brands which customers can select from while enjoying the central food and beverage area that flows out to alfresco dining and a parkland setting.”

Mānawa Bay will be built with a strong emphasis on sustainable design principles and robust, long-lasting materials with minimal energy requirements. Auckland Airport is targeting 5-Star Green design and build with the development. 

Michael Bate, head of Colliers Retail, says a typical response to news of the development from retail brand representatives is “at long last, New Zealand has a truly premium outlet mall”.

“We know from overseas airport fashion outlet centres that these are a proven and resilient retail model and go-to destination for shoppers,” said Bate. 

“We can’t wait to open the doors in 2024.”