The marketing director of the group behind Westfield shopping centres has brushed away concerns that malls could be threatened by pure-play online retailing. He said “very few” of them have ever made a profit and questioned how many would be around in five years.
John Batistich, the marketing and digital director of Westfield owner Scentre Group, gave some fascinating insights into the global shopping mall powerhouse that is Westfield at an Australian conference.
As reported by Mumbrella, Batistich was cynical about the word omnichannel, as well as the effects of online retailing on shopping centres.
He said the death of the shopping mall is exaggerated, as people still crave physical experiences that online retailing can’t provide.
To back this up with evidence, he said sales growth at Westfield shopping malls is almost matching the growth of online sales.
“Physical retailers at Westfield are growing in line with how online in Australia is growing,” Batistich said. He said bricks and mortar still generates 93 percent of sales.
“In Australia, online had been growing at 20-30 percent but it is now growing at only 6.9 percent and Westfield is growing at 6.1 percent on AU$21 billion worth of retail.”
He said Westfield is focused on creating a physical experience for the digital shopper, rather than an all-encompassing omnichannel one.
He even dismissed the word ‘omnichannel’ as a technical term that customers don’t use or relate to.
“At Westfield we have stopped talking about multichannel and omnichannel because our customers don’t talk that way. Our focus is around one seamless experience.”
He focused on the word ‘experience’, saying they’re creating products and services that ecommerce can’t replicate.
This includes food, health and beauty experiences, he said.
“You can’t download a meal and you can’t subscribe to a haircut,” Batistich said.
In response to reports that malls in the US are shutting down, he referenced a 10-year-old Fortune story which predicted the death of the bricks and mortar store.
Seeing as bricks and mortar stores haven’t met their demise yet, he didn’t believe malls would either.
Instead, he said pure-play online retailers are the ones that aren’t firing.
“There are very few pure-play retailers which are making any money and who may not be in this market place in five or 10 years time,” he said.
Westfield has nine shopping centres in New Zealand.
Earlier this year in August, Scentre group reported retail specialty sales increased to $10,374 per square metre in New Zealand.
In February, it announced an annual turnover in New Zealand of $2.3 billion. It said its nine New Zealand malls are worth $1.9 billion.