Presented By: Unibail-Rodamco-Westfield
Colin Shaughnessy On Opportunities Within the Changing Leasing Market
In his role as Executive Vice President of Leasing for Unibail-Rodamco-Westfield (URW) in the United States, Colin Shaughnessy is responsible for overseeing all leasing activities throughout the company’s U.S. portfolio of 30-plus shopping centers, including such flagship assets as Westfield Century City and Westfield Topanga & The Village, both in Los Angeles; Westfield Valley Fair in Silicon Valley; Westfield UTC in San Diego; Westfield Garden State Plaza in Paramus, N.J.; Westfield World Trade Center in New York City; Westfield Montgomery in Bethesda, Md.; and Westfield Old Orchard in Skokie, Ill. A graduate of Stanford University, Shaughnessy first joined Westfield in 2002 and has served in a variety of leadership positions within the organization’s leasing and center management as well as operations divisions.
- How are you approaching your portfolio to incorporate new occupier-driven amenities? How have you worked with tenants over the past year and a half to rethink your spaces?
At URW we’re continually examining new and innovative ways to reimagine the tenant and landlord relationship. Becoming customer-obsessed and future-oriented has allowed us to work hand in hand with our retail partners by making the appropriate short- and long-term investments that support our retailers’ omnichannel evolution and the changing nature of customer conveniences and amenities. This includes everything from reworking our shopping center infrastructure, accommodating third-party service delivery pickups, and creating best-in-class digital infrastructure at our centers. The key for us is to uncover the symbiotic importance between physical and digital retail and examine customer engagement and shopping patterns at our centers. For example, we most recently announced an exciting partnership with Afterpay, the leader in buy-now-pay-later payment plans (or BNPL) — to allow our customers to have more flexible payment options. This integration serves not only as an amenity, but also drives unique customer engagement and higher in-store conversion by leveraging the power of Westfield’s physical spaces.
- What amenities and portfolio changes do you think will be critical in driving the demand for space and foot traffic? What role will health and wellness play?
The pandemic has changed the way people want to shop, and as a result, we have had to change by reexamining our diversity of offer to better meet their needs today and in the future — creating a campus of sorts where they can get everything they need. Our properties are welcoming several innovative and dynamic uses that reflect just that. From medical offices (Kindbody), to coworking facilities (BumoWork), to educational concepts (Little Kitchen Academy) to ghost kitchens (Kitchen United), Westfield is giving its guests more reasons to visit more often and spend within a variety of different retail categories.
Last year, Westfield Century City in Los Angeles welcomed popular fitness tenants Barry’s Bootcamp and SoulCycle to the outdoor fitness lineup bringing positive momentum to the health and wellness space and the communal exercise experience our guests craved. As we begin to move towards a post-pandemic world, we are evolving to stay aligned with shifting consumer needs, and that includes investing in retail opportunities where there is potential for increased foot traffic as a result of activating open spaces with the right experiences for the right audiences.
- What new opportunities do you see emerging in Q4 that will spike new leasing activity?
Less is more now when it comes to physical footprint. Retailers are consolidating stores, and those remaining will be more important than ever, as they’ll function as omnichannel retail hubs. At URW, we anticipated this retail consolidation and have been focused on ensuring we have the best assets in the best markets and that our locations will be those that retailers want to be in. For example, Westfield Valley Fair in Silicon Valley is home to our first-ever Digital District, a destination featuring solely direct-to-consumer brands making their brick-and-mortar debut. The pace of direct-to-consumer and digitally native brand store openings will emerge simply off their successful online sales volume in 2020, and brands are taking note. We’re seeing these brands open physical retail locations in key markets, creating an additional marketing channel and opportunity to acquire customers — and engage currents ones — by opening a physical store.
- How important is it to look past the properties and leverage neighborhood environments, ensuring that your tenants have access to nearby dining, transportation, office, living, etc., to incentivize them to return?
We know space is our biggest asset, and what we do with it and how we rework it with the right combination of access and amenities is key to our success. Westfield Topanga’s expansion project encompasses many of these touch points that will complement the center’s current best-in-class offerings. The new district — creatively reimagined out of former department store space once occupied by Sears — will include a new grand entryway leading to a one-of-a-kind dining and entertainment experience. It will be adjacent a new luxury collection and have improved connectivity with the neighboring outdoor lifestyle destination known as The Village. It will provide better pedestrian access to welcome guests traveling by foot and trolley between both properties. Similarly, Westfield plans to develop Garden State Plaza in Paramus, N.J., and Westfield Montgomery in Bethesda, Md., into a mixed-use town center – encompassing residential developments, commercial offices, and amenity-rich communities — all adjacent to the shopping center. This is a part of a broader company strategy based on our three pillars — concentration, differentiation and innovation — to reimagine traditional shopping locations as places to live, work, relax and connect with the wider community