Kmart fever hits Rotorua
Arriving outside Rotorua’s new Kmart at 1am - seven hours before it opened - Beckie Ransfield thought she’d be first in the line. She wasn’t. Tapu Mitai and Tarron WirihanaBaker took that spot, arriving at 8pm the night before - 12 hours ahead of the store opening.
‘‘Our family came down and had dinner with us last night,’’ said Mitai.
Wrapped up in their dressing gowns against the morning chill, the pair said they wanted to be first in line to secure one of the opening day goodie bags.
As for Ransfield, she was there with a purpose.
She said she wanted to get a seven-piece swing set for her mokopuna, though she sounded a little disappointed not to be first in the queue.
‘‘I just want to be in there. I was hoping to be the first.’’
She need not have worried, because at the appointed hour - 8am on Friday - Ransfield was first customer through the doors of Rotorua’s eagerly awaited Kmart.
Although the doors officially opened at 8am, the proceedings began an hour earlier, with a powhiri and school children performing waiata. Among the dignitaries present were Labour Minister for Local Government and Maori Affairs, Nanaia Mahuta, Rotorua MP Todd McClay, Waiariki MP Tamati Coffey and Rotorua Mayor Steve Chadwick.
But most people gathered were interested in nabbing a bargain.
Aroha Karaha and Whetu Taikato left with a with a trolley full of toys, homewares and ‘‘something from every department ‘‘, while Victory Tamati, Lomano Niuapu and Lazarus Dixon had their eyes on some giant panda, monkey and cat heads.
Kmart head of property Ben Smith said he had attended more than 50 store openings, but none quite like the Rotorua one.
‘‘This is one of the most moving opening ceremonies I’ve been to.’’
He said the store, the 21st in New Zealand, had been ‘‘a long time in the making’’.
‘‘For around 10 years we’ve identified Rotorua as needing a store.’’
Chadwick said a Kmart in Rotorua was one of two things the council had repeatedly lobbied for. She said the store’s arrival was a sign of confidence in the city.
Mahuta also praised PukeroaOruawhata Group for the project and for the more than 100 new jobs had been created, but she had a warning for the new staff. ‘‘The shopping experience on Boxing Day will be the real test.’’
She said the opening also marked the third stage of the Trade Central development in the heart of the city.
Pukeroa-Oruawhata has transformed the former Post Office and Telephone Works depot in to a retail centre with Kmart as its anchor tenant.
‘‘This investment by PukeroaOruawhata is a great economic and social investment in the city and its people,’’ she said.
Pukeroa-Oruawhata Group manages properties in Rotorua on behalf of Nga¯ti Whakaue descendants. It has created more than 650 jobs across its developments including more than 250 jobs at the Trade Central site.
The festive theme was continued by Kmart Rotorua store manager Forrest Worthen. ‘‘It feels like Christmas morning.’’ Excitement has been growing in the town for sometime with a Facebook event for the opening showing more than 6500 people as interested in attending.
When Kmart opened its last New Zealand store, in Petone, more than 1000 people were waiting outside at 8am.