Dennis Marnick, Senior Vice President of Leasing at URW – Business Observer

Unibail-Rodamco-Westfield (URW) is the world’s leading developer and operator of flagship retail and lifestyle destinations, with a global portfolio valued at €54.5 billion ($61.9 billion) in december. The company’s 85 shopping centers and airport terminals are located in many of the fastest growing cities in Europe and the United States.

  • How do technology and experiential concepts make the case for in-person shopping over e-commerce?

At the forefront of the omnichannel retail revolution, URW works with leading global brands – including digital native vertical (DNVB) brands – to reimagine physical and digital touchpoints and create seamless experiences. really dynamic buying. The key to this strategy is to understand the halo effect of physical retail on online sales. A report published by the ICSC suggests that a physical store can increase a retail brand’s web traffic by up to 37%.

At URW, we believe that superior in-store experiences and personalized customer services drive increased customer engagement and better brand awareness, boosting online and offline sales. Beyond a simple purchase, visitors to our featured destinations can fully immerse themselves in brands, sample products, attend sponsored events, catch live concerts, indulge in beauty makeovers, purchase a car, discover meditation rooms with virtual technology or share “new looks”. with their friends on social media using dressing rooms equipped with augmented reality capabilities.

We are also working with our business partners to create pop-up spaces to test new concepts, as well as the ability to target key customers with product placement, sales opportunities and advanced digital advertising across our network. of shopping centers.

  • What role do retail and hospitality play in bringing foot traffic back to offices and key business districts in hub cities?

URW’s shopping centers are irreplaceable contributors to the economic vitality of the communities they serve. Very often they are among the largest indirect employers within their business areas, as well as some of the largest tax revenue generators for local communities.

At the same time, the company’s top centers, including Westfield Century City, Garden State Plaza, Old Orchard, Topanga, UTC and Valley Fair, are blurring the lines between retail and the creation of urban spaces. They are becoming veritable “downtowns” where people come to live, shop, work and play. Perfectly interwoven with the surrounding residential and business districts, these destinations are “must-see” landmarks nestled amidst modern luxury homes, commercial offices and co-working spaces, hotels, parks and communal events and entertainment facilities.

To maximize foot traffic in its flagship destinations, URW is diversifying its offerings to an unprecedented degree – with chef-led restaurants, grocery stores and other daily conveniences, health and wellness amenities and technology brands increasingly important.

VIP-level customer service is also a core feature of URW’s flagship experience. Highlights include enhanced concierge services, curbside delivery and pickup services, “Smart Parking” perks and more.

  • How can brands reframe their retail concepts to deal with generational shifts?

According to studies published by the American Bureau of Economic Analysis and Wells Fargo Securities, American consumers now spend 65% of their discretionary income on “experiences”, compared to only 40% in 1959, while they spend only 11% today. in clothing today, down from 26% in 1959.

This phenomenon is even more pronounced among millennials and younger generations, who increasingly view life experiences – including visits to restaurants, spas and concerts – as more relevant status symbols to share with friends. on social media, rather than bragging about their designer brand. shopping.

At URW, we are more focused than ever on the social experiences we can help curate and the lasting memories we can help create for the guests and visitors we are privileged to welcome each year to our flagship destinations. .

One of the most tangible status symbols for young consumers is their prioritization of health and wellness pursuits. URW has introduced gymnasiums, spas, yoga and micro-fitness studios, cycling, boxing and even medical and cryotherapy clinics to our mall portfolio. Our flagship destinations are also increasingly offering full-service medical practices, dentists and state-of-the-art preventative care services designed to proactively keep patients healthy.

  • Which geographic markets are primed for retail expansion and what are these markets doing to give themselves a competitive edge?

URW’s next-generation development project efforts are primarily focused in economically influential, culturally relevant, and densely populated cities and business areas, particularly in the major markets of New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Washington, D.C., and of Silicon Valley.

As part of a concerted strategy to “densify” our flagship destinations in these markets with a full suite of mixed-use offerings, URW will work with new co-developers and other partners to transform underutilized land and enhance our real estate. through the creation of multifaceted ecosystems. Major upcoming URW expansions include:

  • – Westfield Topanga & The Village in Los Angeles: Currently under construction, a unique new 180,000 square foot dining, entertainment and retail district featuring more than 60 new stores and restaurants.
  • – Westfield Garden State Plaza in Paramus, NJ: Minutes from New York City, this highly influential commercial powerhouse will be transformed into a truly unique downtown in Bergen County.
  • – Westfield Montgomery in Bethesda, Md.: URW will create new modern residential and recreational neighborhoods adjacent to the mall, as well as a “woonerf,” a shared pedestrian and cyclist street lined with shops and restaurants.
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