Winter Of Discontent


A trip to Newmarket to check on the Station Square has left me shocked.

Last month, I called Station Square, adjourning the Newmarket railway/train station a “ghost town” with its many empty shops and soulless environment, dwarfed by the dreadful apartment buildings.

Sadly, nothing has improved. Still empty shops, for lease signs and no one sitting in the square.

But when I ventured out to bustling fashionable Broadway, Newmarket, my jaw dropped.

What’s going on?

  • Most shops had sales of 50% or even higher reductions
  • Hallensteins had gone
  • The remaining CD store has gone
  • There were shops closing down
  • Shops had “all stock must clear” signs
  • There were shops for lease
  • There were shops empty

A few weeks back when I wandered around, Newmarket seemed to be thriving, as you would expect from its local high-end demographic.

If Newmarket is faltering, are we in a new wave of recession?

Latest official retail sales data was overall grim with big drops in areas such as appliance sales and recently released US retail sales and employment figures are depressing.

People aren’t spending.

Newmarket Business Association head, Cameron Brewer, says this is his sixth winter in Newmarket “and I think its proving to be the toughest in recent memory for retailers across the country.”

“You’ve got to remember that last winter a lot of banks were still giving their loyal business customers a bit of leeway. This winter banks are adopting a much more sink or swim approach and for some retailers that’s proving to be very challenging.”

He believes this is lining up to be “a real winter of discontent and we probably haven’t had one of those since the early 1990s when unemployment hit double figures. This time we haven’t seen big unemployment but what we have got is an erosion of people’s spending power and confidence.”

Estimating it could be the toughest for 20 years or so, he says last winter was tough because the country was technically in a recession and people’s confidence was shot.

But this winter is probably worse because consumers have literally got less money to spend and overall confidence remains flat.

He complains that many landlords are still not coming to the party and offering retailers some form of rent relief. So it’s proving to be a very difficult time for retailers to make ends meet.

I expected Station Square to be grim. But not Broadway.

So how bad is it going to get?

Have you stopped spending?




  1. Anon says:

    The problem is that most people consider the square just a transit place. Watch the people walking though it, most of them spend their time waiting on the platforms rather than in the square. Give the people something to do or look at.

    The open air square that lacks any direct sunshine except around midday is a waste of space. Enclose it with a high white stretched canvas roof with good lighting.

    Put down a proper wooden dance floor in the center and have it host a day by day rotation of Samba,Tango,Ceroc,Ballroom etc demos,classes & dancing from the hours of 11:30am till 8:30pm ).

    Around square provide chairs and tables for participants and onlookers. The area will soon fill up with people and with restaurants, bars & specialist stores to fill demand.

    The Newmarket Business Association should subsidise daytime demos and classes to attract people/customers into the area.

    Newmarket’s New Station Square is in a perfect location for such a venture. If successful it may even spur demand for more late night train services which in turn could also help provide Sylvia Park and central Auckland with more/new late night customers.

  2. John Dalley says:

    What does the round trip cost.
    Britamart to Swanson and return?

  3. Suzie says:

    With the strong Kiwi dollar its cheaper to buy things abroad and ship stuff over. Shops don’t seem to realise that people have access to the internet to see they are being ripped off!

    The empty space in Newmarket could have been become a bus interchange. Unfortunately all the plans for a bus station were ignored and now its too late because the square is surrounded by empty shops and yet another car park.

  4. CB says:

    Jon you are quite right. Retail is struggling big time at the moment, people are not spending money. As someone who works for a wholesaler supplying retail it’s pretty gim out there.

  5. ingolfson says:

    “The Newmarket Business Association should subsidise daytime demos and classes to attract people/customers into the area.”

    Um, while I am sure the Newmarket Business Association would love Station Square to be more successful, I would think that they will concentrate on the healthieness of their EXISTING members first, rather than on that of empty shopfronts.

    “Shops don’t seem to realise that people have access to the internet to see they are being ripped off!”

    Oh, so trying to pay the rent to the shop landlord, pay wages above slavery levels - while competing with the lowest prices somewhere on the net during a recession - is ripping people off? Retailers have many faults, but I think you have limited idea of how retail works.

    Maybe you read the article on the 500% grocery markups in supermarkets. That is a totally different beast, because that is a duopoly using their market position. It has nothing to do with a franchise chain holder or small independent shop on Broadway.

  6. Kelvin says:

    I was there the other night, and while it was only served by those passing through or the odd youth type I didn’t think it was any more desolate than some of the squares I’ve just seen in Barcelona during the day (bearing in mind the Spanish come out late at night). However, I did think it could have an aviary which may sound weird but I saw one in Berlin like it - very futuristic cone design - I think in two enclosed parts that you could walk through the middle of. The only thing is - would the birds be safe from the odd idiot throwing/flicking their fag buts in. I took some really nice pics of Newmarket that night, and I have to say for one that likes and takes pics of ‘empty’ spaces, the blue station lights look great against the rainy square and slate grey sky. Just let me know if you want to see some and I’ll forward some to you.

  7. Anon says:

    “… I would think that they will concentrate on the healthieness of their EXISTING members first …”

    Consider the Rialto and Broadway Theaters. They also operate as an attraction to the whole of Newmarket. It is likely that people using these venues will stick around choose spend more time and money in Newmarkets bars, restaurants and shopping.

    In the same way, turning the station square into a dance venue could attract a new audience. Ask Kevin how much more vibrant the Barcelona nightlife is with the latin style dancing.

  8. Suzie says:

    Walking along Nuffield St / Remuera Road I have seen $400 for a dress, $250 for a t-shirt, $600+ for shoes. Other than criminals who is making enough money to pay these prices?

    When I first arrived here I was shocked at how much more I would have to pay to buy quality products. Unfortunately I do need to wait for a half price or closing down sale before I can afford anything that I would have bought at full price in the UK.

  9. ingolfson says:

    Anon, I agree - but that presupposes that the NBA (pun unintended) has that money left over. As I said, their members might feel that they should rather do events in Lumsden Green or on Broadway as promotion right now, rather than in Station Square where there are just a few straggling shops.

  10. Owen Thompson says:

    Part of the problem is that developers build shops with a hope that retailers & customers will be lured into new premises, completely ignoring the existing retail outlets.

  11. max says:

    I can tell you that there is not much being built right now! The Station Square stuff was started off pre-GFC, so you can’t really blame them. But otherwise - some planning and consenting work going on, but actual construction of more retail is still a good ways out.

  12. Suzie says:

    How about some shops that are needed. Ikea and Boots are both sorely missed by all the British people here.

    Many foods are also missing from the supermarkets here compared to Europe.

    A decent sandwich or salad bar is missing from Newmarket. Also no fish and chip shop or a decent Pakistani curry house.

  13. Kelvin says:

    Suzie, this country needs a bloody PRIMARK so bad it isn’t funny! I agree - almost died looking at how much it is going to cost for a t-shirt here - does no-one do plain t’s?
    I’m not sure about Boots though, otherwise it becomes like Ireland which doesn’t feel Irish anymore because of Tesco and the like going there.

  14. Suzie says:

    What else?
    Dorothy Perkins for trousers in different lengths.

    River Island and Wallis for good quality and variety.

    Shoes - not much variety just expensive. How about Schuh and Irregular Choice.

    Marks and Spencer for good quality snack food and bra’s in all sizes.

    Three for price of two and buy one get one free at the supermarket to encourage you to try out new products.

    Quorn is also sadly missing from this meat obsessed obese country!

    If the average salary in Auckland is $75K then good quality but sensibly priced shops will thrive. Lots of bored business people wandering around Newmarket at lunchtime. Not even a decent sized book shop to keep us amused!

  15. Matt L says:

    Suzie - Not being rude but why don’t you open a store. If there is a gap in the market you could make heaps.

  16. Suzie says:

    Thanks. I do earn quite a lot - just don’t have anywhere to spend it!!
    Was thinking of a nice holiday but only get four weeks leave. Any ideas?!

  17. ingolfson says:

    Suzie, I am wondering what you are trying to tell us. First you argue that one has to be a criminal to be able to afford shoes or shirts in Newmarket (I got very servicable $200 ones there recently, thanks), then you say that you earn a lot actually but have nowhere to spend it. Conflicted a bit?

  18. Suzie says:

    I want value for a money and I’m not going to be spend more than necessary. Not rich enough to buy much in Alannah Hill sadly!

  19. I’m pretty sure it wasnt just the ‘square’ that missed urban design consideration. How the apartment development of which the the ‘sqaure’ is a part got through any sort of urban design assessment is beyond me. The development fails on all levels- frontage, facade treatments, public space, traffic movement the lot. Its not good enough to say that providing an essential public amentity is enough of an achievement any more, the whole context must be considered as these developments are critical to our enduring urban experience.

  20. Nick R says:

    Richard, there is no urban design assessment in Auckland. As long as they meet planning requirements developers can build as ugly or stalinist a monstrosity as they like, the council is powerless to stop them.

    Yet another symptom of the neo-liberal market led approach to development.

  21. max says:

    Nick R, you are wrong. There IS an urban design panel, and it DOES assess development, certainly any such as big as this one. I am involved in several projects where the urban design panel has had a significant influence despite not having a statutory power (being a part of Council, they CAN make your life hard even so, if you play hardball as a developer).

    HOWEVER, the panel was not yet in existence when the consents for Kings Square (corner Remuera Broadway) and Queen’s Lodge (next to the railway station, north of the station square) were given. So there is hope, but all you’ve seen built in recent years was consented many years ago, when “do what you want” was indeed the limit as long as you provided lots of car parks and fit under the height limit…

  22. Anon says:

    max, I don’t believe that just more “construction of more retail is still a good ways out.”

    Newmarket needs new attractions, aimed at its targeted consumer market. Dancing may be a way to attract people in.

  23. Nick R says:

    @Max, that’s good to hear that the panel is now somewhat effectual. Last thing I heard they were just some advisory group that were largely ignored… But they still have no statutory power, only the power to make life difficult?

  24. max says:

    Anon, yes, events are nice to get people to come in, stay and so on - I wasn’t dissing the idea. Sadly Newmarket has little space for it, what with the tiny footpaths (compared to the volumes). And if you have only enough funding to do a limited amount, I would have them do it in Lumsden Green, rather than Station Square.

    Nick R - well, squeaky wheels get the oil, you know?

    In a drawn-out fight between a developer’s lawyers and the urban design panel over something the panel wants to be done / not done, it probably would be Council / the panel that caves in. But since developers like to avoid that kind of fight as well, and like to stay on Council’s good side, they will at least look into the panel’s requests.

    For an example, at the end of the day, some “modulation of the facade” as the architects call it is easy to achieve - not all buildings have to look so boring and bland from the outside as Kings Square / Queen’s Lodge, and one can hope that crimes like unfinished concrete brick walls like on their car parking exterior walls will be a thing of the past from hereon. One can hope.


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