Westfield Valley Fair mall is adding what the developer has dubbed the “Digital District,” a section of eight different brands born and bred online and testing retail for the first time, as part of the mall’s $1.1 billion expansion. Brands in the “digital” area include skin-care range Ghost Democracy and Lett, both in-house lines of online retailer Verishop, along with non-prescription glasses line (meant to reflect blue light from digital screens) Felix Gray; houseware brand Goodies, and retail accelerator/crowdfunder We the People. Most are set to open by the first weekend in March.
Colin Shaughnessy, executive vice president of U.S. leasing for Westfield owner Unibail-Rodamco-Westfield, said bringing in these new brands is in an effort to reach “the region’s digitally savvy consumers.” The mall is about 20 minutes from the tech world hub of Palo Alto and about an hour from San Francisco, areas teaming with tech workers largely known, as far as fashion choices go, for a dedication to half-zip pullovers, outdoor vests and sneakers. But Shaughnessy noted that with flexible leases and customizable retail spaces that include data offerings on foot traffic, the space is an olive branch to newer brands, as well.
“It will give participating retailers the opportunity to reach new customers by providing a dynamic, flexible alternative to traditional ‘in-line’ spaces, with fewer barriers to entry than traditional leasing models,” he added.
While a Westfield spokeswoman would not give specifics on the leasing strategy for the spaces, she said lengths average “about one year.” As for what went into which brands were selected for the new spaces, all of which are around 1,100 square feet, the spokeswoman said it was a mix of social following, product offering, customer base and how it would drive customers to the mall, as well as whether they had the ability to “scale within our portfolio.” Or how likely it would be to grow its retail presence within Westfield malls in the U.S. and Europe. While there are no plans to add additional “digital” storefronts, that could change.
“As URW continues to innovate in this area, we will consider adding additional Digital Districts to centers in the URW portfolio,” the spokeswoman said.
Beyond bringing in digital brands as part of the 500,000-square-foot expansion, expected to be fully completed next year, the Valley Fair mall is adding other retailers, too. An Eataly will open in 2021, a new Bloomingdale’s flagship is going in, as is a new concept store, Grandshop, from Cole Haan, which just filed for an initial public offering last week.
The new 940-square-foot store is the first of its kind for the brand and will be focused on “human connection and enabled technology” and styled to offer a customer experience “similar to a live/work loft,” as the brand describes it. There will be Near-Field Communication, simply a method of phones and devices connecting to one another, in this case allowing customers to check inventory on items and order online, and a full offering of Cole Haan’s “most innovative” styles for men and women. Or collections of “lifestyle products for a culture on the move,” according to David Maddocks, the brand’s chief marketing officer and manager of business development.
“This first Grandshop was designed for the young, extraordinary pioneers of Silicon Valley,” Maddocks said, “whose lives reflect their personal and professional passions and who work to disrupt the status quo.”
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