Steven Lowy, co-CEO of shopping mall company Westfield, recently shared some thoughts at the Shoptalk 2016 retail convention.The decline in traffic and revenue for traditional retailers has been well documented, as has the proliferation of online retailers, but there may be a convergence on the horizon that will bring together the best parts of both worlds.
As shopping habits continue to evolve in our on-demand world, online retailers such as Amazon continue to see surging traffic from consumers who want what they want now – and at the price they want to pay. The shifting landscape continues to take its toll on brick-and-mortar retailers such as J.C. Penney, Nordstrom’s and Macy’s, all of whom reported disappointing results for the first quarter of 2016.
So how will shopping malls be able to withstand the onslaught from online retailers and perhaps return to their standing as a sort of community center? Steven Lowy, co-CEO of shopping mall company Westfield, has some ideas and recently shared some thoughts at the Shoptalk 2016 retail convention.
In order for Malls to remain competitive, “Malls must be exciting places to be,” Lowy said. He envisions a “mall of the future” where technological innovations converge with a traditional brick-and-mortar environment to provide shoppers with an interactive experience that will keep them coming back for more, and perhaps even increase the amount they spend in physical locations.
Westfield is not sitting on the sidelines simply waiting for the shift to happen, but rather putting a substantial amount of money where its mouth is. The company is in the midst of an $800 million-dollar revamp of the outdoor Century City shopping mall in Los Angeles. Lowy added that once renovations are complete, the revamped mall will “look nothing like what traditional malls look like.”
Among the new concepts that the shopping mall giant has been quick to embrace is the concept of a “searchable” mall, where shoppers visiting the Westfield website can purchase products from a bevy of retailers. Also in the testing phase are technologies that will help guide mall visitors throughout their shopping experience onsite, as well as apps that will allow shoppers to purchase items ahead of time from takeout restaurants inside the mall while they are going about their browsing.
The company is also undertaking a $700 million-dollar renovation of the University Towne Center in San Diego, which has actually turned into a mixed-use project with offices and residential also planned for the project. Additionally, the new revamped mall will include park-like spaces with an eye towards drawing in additional traffic. On the retail side, the mall will offer several new sit-down restaurants, as well as several new retailers that are moving into the brick-and-mortar space from – you guessed it – their previous roots as online shopping portals.
Retailers that were formerly only known for their presence on the internet are increasingly making the move to expand to physical locations. While the convenience and savings gained from online shopping will not be disappearing anytime soon, there’s still something to be said for the feel and touch experience that shoppers can enjoy in person. Even Amazon, the company that started as an online bookseller, is making the move to brick-and-mortar by establishing physical bookstores.