LAS VEGAS—Malls must embrace and exploit digital advances in order to compete in the modern retail marketplace, Steven Lowy, co-CEO of shopping center company Westfield, said in a fireside chat today at the Shoptalk 2016 retail convention.
The “mall of the future” will incorporate technological innovations and interactive experiences “for physical real estate to continue to be relevant,” Lowy said. “Malls must be exciting places to be.”
Last fall, Westfield unveiled a new big data and analytics team tasked with conceptualizing, developing and implementing the company’s technology strategy. Westfield has also made significant investments in more personalized, intuitive shopping experiences, including its Searchable Mall web application, which helps consumers find items to purchase before they visit their local mall.
Westfield is spending $800 million to makeover Los Angeles outdoor shopping mall Century City. Lowy said the revamped mall will emphasize interactive environments focused on food, entertainment and fitness. The mall is adding new tenants like Eataly, the celebrated Italian marketplace chain that aligns traditional grocery retail with a variety of restaurants, food and beverage counters, bakeries and cooking schools.
“When Century City opens next year, it’s going to look nothing like what traditional malls look like,” Lowy said.
Lowy agreed with critics who argue that the U.S. retail market is over-stored. He said that many merchants have failed to keep pace with technology innovations and changing consumer tastes. Nevertheless, Lowy believes that retailers are slowly but surely adapting to the demands of today’s marketplace, exhibiting a new willingness to share data for the greater good, for example.
“We have to share data to create a better experience for consumers and drive sales for retailers,” Lowy said. “We have to work together, or otherwise it won’t happen.”