At Last, A Glimmer of Light At The End of the Retail Shopping Tunnel?
There is a fair amount of gnashing of teeth and rending of garments over the declining state of (real) retail in this country. I am perhaps one of the louder wailers and garment shredders on the topic. One so wants to see someone doing it right, right now, as well as preparing for next. One so rarely does. Thus, it was with an at first unwilling suspension of disbelief that I first heard (from a journalist calling for comment) the news that Westfield Malls was heralding a partnership with Uber. It seemed, frankly, odd.
My initial take was right, as far as it went: Westfield was realizing that nobody wants to drive to and from a mall anymore, least of all the affluents it hopes to attract to its sites in Century City, Tribeca and beyond. By which I mean, the segment formerly known as Yuppies, e.g. Young, Urban Professionals, and DINKs (Dual Income, No Kids). I was dubious that simply offering up the bad boy of car services was enough to crack through the ‘too busy to schlepp’ zone.
Yes, all 33 Westfield Malls will offer Uber Lounges and personal service kiosks, but really? Is that the hobble?
Then, I thought, perhaps it is more that Westfield is repositioning itself as an upscale leisure activity locale, with shopping optional. That seems a good destination to head towards: The Experience Economy comes on the little cat feet of white table cloth restaurants, bars, bowling and luxuriously catered recliner seat movies. If you’re going about the business of encouraging people to kick back with an adult beverage or four, you don’t also want to encourage them to drive, right? Ergo Uber.
As I was deciding between ‘too little too late’ and ‘cool, savvy, future focused idea,’ whoosh! came the news that Westfield is one of the initial investors in and soon first providers of the newest virtual reality experience: Dreamscape Immersive. It allows viewers to “buy a ticket, step into the story, and experience it as never before,” according to the chairman. Now, that’s worth leaving home for. So, I’m coming down on the side of ‘cool, savvy and future focused idea.’ Well done. What’s next?
Perhaps partnerships with your retail apparel mall neighbors to offer wardrobe options to advance the story, express the character's character and allow for benign, umm, trying on and purchase? Just sayin'.