Forget the harbour and the beaches, shopping malls have a much bigger influence on how people spend their days in Sydney.
The populations of Chatswood, Bondi Junction and Castle Hill – which have some of the city's biggest shopping centres – all swell to more than 270,000 during the day, a study has found. That is about 5 1/2 times more than the typical Sydney neighbourhood's daytime population, research by Bob Schwartz, the chief economist of business software services firm Pitney Bowes, shows.
The army of commuters who work in Sydney's CBD gives it by far the biggest daytime population – at almost 2 million it is six times bigger than second-ranked Parramatta. But the influence of shopping malls is underscored by the presence of Westfield centres in 11 of the city's top 15 daytime population hubs including Hurstville (seventh), Burwood (eighth), Hornsby (10th), Penrith (11th), Liverpool (12th), Miranda (13th) and Brookvale (14th).
The Westfield Group, which opened its first mall in Blacktown in 1959, has 18 centres across NSW and has emerged as one of the world's largest shopping centre owners and managers.
“Sydney is certainly shaped by a Westfield effect, but Westfield is equally defined by Sydney,” Mr Schwartz said. “Westfield started in western Sydney and became the behemoth that it is today because it was a first mover in shopping centres as well as getting lucky in starting life in a very fast-growing metropolis. Sydney grew very quickly in the postwar period and Westfield was well positioned to offer Sydneysiders the convenience, choice and parking they desired.”
Sydney's biggest daytime population hotspots do not always correspond with the locations with the highest economic output. Macquarie Park, which modelling by PwC shows is the city's third-biggest local economy, ranks 19th for daytime population. North Sydney was ranked second for economic output but sixth for daytime population and Pyrmont-Ultimo was fifth for economic output but 22nd for daytime population.
Mr Schwartz said the knock-on effects from a big shopping mall were often not substantial for the local area.
“Any large regional mall is essentially a self-contained city. The whole rationale for their existence is to offer shoppers a wide variety of just about anything they might like. Equally, planning regulations are such that competing retail projects are just not allowed to be built. In an area such as Penrith, traders on the streets outside of the mall do not trade nearly as well as those who are inside."