Shopping centres fight to stay relevant during lockdown

Shopping centres in Australia are fighting to stay relevant after government restrictions to stop the spread of coronavirus rendered them “ghost towns”.

Scentre Group recently introduced a contactless click-and-collect service that enables customers to purchase products online from multiple Westfield retailers in one transaction and pick them up from the convenience of their car at a drive-through location at a local centre.

The new Westfield Direct service connects customers online to over 350 retailers offering 8000 products across a variety of categories, from fresh food and QSR operators, such as Harris Farm Markets, Bakers Delight, Haigh’s Chocolates, Betty’s Burgers, Donut King and Boost Juice, to everyday essentials and lifestyle retailers, such as Harry Hartog, L’Occitane and Aesop to name a few.

“In these challenging times, we understand more than ever the need to be agile and respond to the fast-changing needs of our customers,” said Phil McAveety, Scentre Group director of customer experience.

McAveety said service gives retail partners that are still able to trade under the current restrictions a new way to reach customers.

“The response from our retailers so far has been overwhelmingly positive, with dozens joining each day and we’re looking forward to seeing where the Westfield Direct service takes us in the coming months,” he said.

Westfield Direct is now available on the Scentre Group website for takeaway food orders, fresh food, everyday essentials and lifestyle items at all Australian Westfield Living Centres.

Once the order is placed, customers will be notified of the designated pick-up location and collect the purchase.

Other shopping centres facing uncertainty as the COVID-19 crisis changes consumer shopping habits have opted to introduce online activities to stay relevant to their customers.

Melbourne Central: Virtual gigs and more

Melbourne Central has launched MCTV, which connects Melbourne Central’s customers to local retailers, musicians, artists and creatives they know and would want to discover.

“Us Melbournians are social butterflies… and thanks to MCTV we can live our best life online and celebrate the vibrant culture of our city,” the shopping centre announced. “There are no cancellations at MCTV.”

The virtual channel boasts an ever evolving program of gigs, how-tos, and even a virtual wine tasting hosted in collaboration with local partners and emerging talent.

“Our community is at the centre of what we do at Melbourne Central,” said Melissa Polglase, Melbourne Centrals’ development marketing manager.

“People can’t stop saying the C-word and day by day it’s affecting every part of our lives. Savouring small moments, strengthening connections and finding the good in others is what will keep us together.”

Some of the virtual events include: encouraging viewers to dress up in their favourite band tee and host their own ‘iso’ party, allowing people to stream music from Melbourne’s favourite bands and musicians through Central Sessions, giving vinyl lovers the chance to share their favourite tracks across Melbourne during BYO Vinyl Nights and more.

“Just because clubs are closed, doesn’t mean you can’t get your groove on,” Melbourne Central stated. “We’re kicking off MCTV with fashion and beauty inspo for your next House Party call.”

Viewers can also discover insider tips direct from professional makeup artists at Beauty Central, plus surprise giveaways from brands. The shopping centre is also hosting a live masterclass on MCTV with Cassandra Lusi – Steph Claire Smith’s go-to makeup guru.

Burwood Brickworks: Cooking and yoga classes

Burwood Brickworks is also offering online classes and workshops to stay connected with customers. Young would-be chefs and other kids who want to give cooking a try can join an online kids cooking class throughout April.

The cooking classes, held on Tuesdays at 2pm and 10am on Saturdays, are hosted positive food education specialists Foost.

The shopping centre is also offering online pilates sessions hosted by Brickworks’ own Little Mandarin. For those who prefer yoga, Little Mandarin also offers online yoga sessions.

Starting in May, dog owners can join in new online workshops to be coordinated through DOGUE, while Insight Early Learning, the on-site childcare operator at Brickworks, will be taking young kids through a range of educational activities. Dates and times for these are to be confirmed.

“We always want Burwood Brickworks to offer a fun and engaging experience. Right now, this means taking that experience to people in new and different ways,” said centre manager Eric Park.

Neil Saunders, managing director of GlobalData, said the coronavirus is now the biggest threat to retail and consumer firms since the global financial crash of 2008.

“It is a complex crisis because it is affecting both demand and supply chains which means retailers are suffering at both ends. And this is on top of all the other issues retailers are already dealing with.”

Saunders said it is no exaggeration to say that the coronavirus will reshape the retail and consumer landscape; it will leave a scar just as the financial crash left its mark.

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