You can be sure that luxe retailers around the world are taking note of the newest addition to their ranks – the $1 billion blast of California coastal cool that’s now open for business under the banner of Westfield Century City.
The $1 billion refers to the cost of the mall’s recent renovation, formally unveiled last week (see related coverage, pages 3 and 5).
California coastal cool only begins to describe the place, which makes a firm claim to a spot at the upper reaches of retail with the sort of fashionably relaxed, confoundingly confident posture that has come to define Los Angeles in the world’s imagination.
The place is exclusive and accessible at once – visitors can stop at Tiffany’s for diamonds or grab a burger and fries at the Shake Shack. Everything from the storefronts and tiles that line their way, the succulents that accent the place, and even the glimpses of sky and skyline overhead offer declarations that the open-air emporium is unique.
Indeed, the goods you can buy at Westfield Century City might be readily available online, but the experience of a visit to the place won’t be.
That appears to be the basis of a bold bet in the form of the $1 billion investment that Westfield has made.
The Sydney-based company has no shortage of shopping malls in the United States, where digital disruption has a lot of experts predicting that about a third of the 900 or so malls across the country could close within five years (see related story, page 1).
Westfield isn’t just waiting for Amazon.com to eat its lunch – in fact the online behemoth has opened a brick-and-mortar store at its Century City center, which exemplifies a strategy built on flagship properties that offer unique experiences to shoppers in major markets.
Malls of all levels have been rethinking their business models in recent years, adding restaurants and entertainment options as major retail tenants have quit the field.
Yet that’s beginning to look like a tactical retreat from a historic challenge. No wonder the dreary facts remain, and the predictions of the closure or redevelopment of hundreds of malls keep coming.
Westfield Century City seems different – it feels like a strategic response to the seismic shifts of the digital.
That’s worth a look these days, when any business might be the next to face a jolting disruption.
And the California coastal cool is a reminder of why this market is worth the effort.
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