BY LAUREN FREEMANTLE

Newcastle’s Thursday night shopping scene is shaping up to be electric this evening, with Westfield Kotara unveiling the first stage of its $160 million refurbishments today.

The ribbon cutting has taken place on 30 new and relocated stores, with flash mobs, children’s entertainment and giveaways happening throughout the day as part of a four-day celebration.

Westfield Kotara Centre Manager Kate Murphy said the new space is a unique offering.

“This precinct will appeal to the Hunter’s youth audience, and we’ve made sure it’s synonomous with the region’s surf, skate and lifestyle culture,” she said.

“We’re excited to bring a series of firsts to the new precinct – we have JB HIFI introducing a new technology and gaming experience. Customers will also be able to shop at an EB Games with Zing Pop combined and we have a new Shaping Bay at our Surf Dive ‘n Ski store.”

First-to-market retailers include Mr and Mrs Jones, W Hair Bar and Espresso Warriors, while favourites like Carla Swimwear, Industrie and Universal Store are also moving in.

Kmart has confirmed it will re-open its doors on November 29.

Some shops have reported a downturn in trade over the 12-month construction period, but Westfield is confident the retailers will sell-up big under the improvements.

Kate Murphy said they’ve also introduced a new, ticketless parking system.

“It’ll allow our customers seamless passage on their entry and exit with no need for a paper ticket,” Ms Murphy said.

“We’re also really happy to announce we’re introducing our new parking guidance system which will make it easy for our customers to find a park once they’re here and spend more time doing what they love when they’re in the centre.”

In coming months, Westfield Kotara will extend the popular Rooftop eatery, and introduce the Hunter’s only large format David Jones and the city’s first Zara store.