George Papageorge, Executive Vice President – Leasing at Westfield Shopping Centers describes Westfield’s current philosophy of creating, “Point of Difference,” food at their malls. As he explains at the CREW Network Annual Convention:
“if you look at all of the data…… and what consumers want,” you recognize that they, “cannot eat over the internet, they cannot drink over the internet, they cannot smell what mom’s got cooking over the internet.” They are looking for artisan food and “regardless of where it is, they are going to drive to it”.
While George talks about the “point of difference” in the context of food, I prefer to think of it as part of the much broader “experience”. While it can be, it’s not just food that can distinguish one shopping experience from another. But it is certainly something that Westfield focuses on.
Having just recently visited South Coast Plaza in Costa Mesa, California after many years of not shopping at the mall, there was a definite and distinctive feel about the mall. It had a very “high end” polish to it, not least of which, caused by the mix of very high end retail tenants. It was like walking down rodeo drive, but in Costa Mesa.
Tenant mix is not a new concept in retail shopping centers and malls, but there seems to be a greater focus today, I believe partly due to the need to distinguish brick & mortar retail from online retail by delivering the “experience”. I’m not sure that I can describe the feeling other than it made me feel good. Maybe a feeling that I belonged among the Cartier shoppers.
George and I go on to describe The Shops at Columbus Circle as a great example of how adding a Whole Foods Market to the shopping experience creates a point of difference. I couldn’t agree more.