LOS ANGELES, United States — Westfield has launched an Uber lounge at its Century City, Los Angeles mall as part of a US-wide partnership with the ride-sharing app.
The move is intended to make customer transportation much more convenient, thereby increasing the length of time spent on site and in turn, consumer spend. Thirty-three malls will have dedicated Uber pickup and drop-off points, while in the LA lounge, opening this autumn, customers will have access to “premium amenities one would expect to find in a hotel,” Bill Hecht, Westfield’s COO in the US tells BoF.
This includes complimentary beverages, charging stations and free newspapers and magazines. Users will also be able to book tables at restaurants, purchase tickets for local attractions and utilise the advice of personal styling assistants.
“The number one objective is that we need to be able to provide convenience,” says Hecht. “We have a plethora of shops and restaurants in one location, we have technology in place for the search side of it, and now we are providing a way of being able to get to and from the shopping centre in a much easier, more ambient way.”
The lounge is the next step in Westfield’s concierge service that launched last year, where customers can shop hands-free and collect their shopping at the end of their trip — now, shoppers can collect their purchased goods in the Uber lounge: the idea is, the less bags the customer has to carry around, the more they will shop.
Encouraging ride-sharing also reduces the need for permanent parking spaces, which will enable Westfield to capitalise on existing space: traditionally, shopping centres would dedicate 30 to 40 percent of land to parking. Westfield Century City is currently undergoing a $1 billion renovation that will see an increase in social areas, with fresh food markets, rooftop wine bars and gyms sitting alongside traditional stores. In its redevelopment, Westfield has gained an additional 400,000 square foot of retail space, which will house a three-storey Nordstrom, Macy’s and the West Coast’s first Eataly.
It’s all part of a wider strategy by Westfield to enhance the customer experience: in order to compete with the likes of Amazon, the mall has to offer something extra, becoming instead a place to socialise. The increase in restaurants and bars enables Westfield to further tap into the experience economy.
Westfield Century City currently sees 20 million visitors each year: harnessing footfall to increase revenues is key to the shopping mall’s long-term survival. In recent years, Westfield has streamlined its portfolio, closing less “productive”, regional malls and redistributing those funds into redeveloping existing centres. Currently, the Westfield portfolio is estimated to be worth $32 billion; following the redevelopment programme, Westfield’s assets will be worth $45-60 billion.