Westfield Retail Study Tour diary: Dallas & NYC
Landing in Dallas, and after a quick visit to camping/fishing/hunting large format retailer, Bass Outdoors – “Sarah Palin Heaven”, as one tour participant put it – the tour bus rolled into the monolithic Dallas-Forth Worth branch of Nebraska Furniture Mart, the largest furniture and homewares store in the world.
With a retail showroom spread over a colossal 52,025 square metres and the entire complex covering no less than 100 acres, the recently launched Dallas-Forth Worth Nebraska Furniture Mart is impressive in size and scope, but also in presentation.
Day two of the 2016 Westfield World Retail Study Tour took participants to Northpark Mall and Galleries Mall, two contrasting shopping centres on the outskirts of the Dallas CBD. Northpark Mall, one of the top 20 malls in the US, with annual sales of more than US$1 billion, offers a fitting example of what a large-scale, upmarket shopping centre should be. Mixing over 235 stores, many of which feature first-class fit-outs, with an assortment of sublime art installations, Northpark Mall didn’t fail to impress.
Galleries Mall, on the other hand, felt very much the same as any number of other shopping centres. Its size and ice-skating rink centrepiece notwithstanding, Galleries Mall paled in comparison to Northpark Mall.
In Dallas, tour participants enjoyed presentations from retail executives from IBM, One Network, Neiman Marcus, Fossil and The Container Store. John Koryl, president, stores and online at luxury department store chain, Neiman Marcus, gave the pick of the presentations. Operating off-script, Koryl offered a refreshingly open, two-way dialogue with tour participants, and threw in some informed points such as, “The most precious commodity customers have is not money, it is time” and, “Maybe it’s not a good thing to give customers everything they want”.
Arriving in New York City, Westfield World Retail Study Tour participants heard presentations from Conlumino, Michael Hill, Under Armour, Direct Shoe Warehouse, a Columbia University academic, and Y&R Labs. Under Armour senior vice president, Susie McCabe, touched on the quiet launch this month of Australia’s first Under Armour store, a factory outlet at Harbour Town on the Gold Coast. McCabe also suggested that Under Armour is not likely at this stage to open a flagship in Australia.
Professor Mark Cohen, director of retail studies at Columbia University, offered some pertinent takeaways in his presentation, including, “The [retail] business has always been about newness; if you don’t do something interesting, you’re dead”.
Tour highlights on the New York leg of the tour included:
- Large outlet centre, Woodbury Common, in Central Valley, outside of New York City. Laid out in a quaint, cottage-like setting, Woodbury Common is a premium outlet centre by Simon Property Group and features outlets from, amongst others, Nike, Under Armour, American Eagle Outfitters, Armani, Bally, Bose, Hugo Boss, Calvin Klein, Burberry, Disney, Ecco, Furla, and Polo Ralph Lauren. Marking the changing function of outlet retail, many of the retailers at Woodbury Common stock product specifically made for their outlets, rather than leftover stock from their premium stores.
- The Samsung 837 brand experience centre in the meatpacking district in Manhattan. Inside Retail Weekly covered the launch of Samsung 837 in early March, but seeing it in person is a whole other experience. At no small investment – US$ 300 million just to buy the property, which it then knocked down and rebuilt to its bespoke needs – Samsung has created a uniquely enticing experiential space. There is not a single product for sale, yet Samsung 837 clearly has potent power to turn visitors into Samsung brand loyalists.
- Pirch. The tour visited Pirch, a high-end homewares store, in Westfield Garden State Plaza, as well as the soon to open Pirch flagship in Manhattan. Pirch is unlike any retailer in Australia – or anywhere much else. Entering Pirch, customers are greeted with a café offering a complimentary drink. All products on the showroom floor, except for kitchen products, for safety reasons, are operational, from showers to baths to toilets, allowing customers to see – and even try, in some cases – before they buy. Pirch stores also have a qualified chef instore for cooking demonstrations and to show customers how to use the appliances. Pirch is an amazing concept, and if the idea was introduced in Australia it would have no peer.
Stay tuned for the next issue of Inside Retail Weekly, in which we’ll cover the London and Paris legs of the 2016 Westfield World Retail Study Tour.