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Westfield octopus spreads tentacles

WESTFIELD shopping centres can be likened to an octopus with hundred of tentacles ensnaring its prey and leaving other smaller centres for dead, according to Westfield State shopping centre manager Paul Lopez.

“Perhaps I can use Westfield Gallaria as an example,” Mr Lopez said.

“In 1994, when Galleria first opened there was very little competition. People would travel regularly from as far afield as Fremantle, the Hills and the most northern Perth suburbs.

“In doing so they would by-pass the shopping centres that were closer to where they lived.

“Think of it as an octopus with hundreds of tentacles. From its safe haven, its tentacles reached out, worked their way into other octopus’ territories and gathered customers to feed its large demand.

“There were easy pickings out there and the centre took full advantage of this.”

However, in time other regional centres where further developed so people found no need to by-pass them. The octopus’ tentacles where being severed.

“So to satisfy its huge demand, the octopus has to go after harder to catch prey within its own territory,” Mr Lopez said at a recent Australian Property Institute seminar on shopping centre trends.

“It is then that the smaller shopping complexes will feel the real bite of the big regional.

“The centre, by increasing its share of business in the primary trade and secondary trade areas, has to take business away from the smaller centres and other retail precincts.

“Whereas once it (the octopus) reached out and gathered easy prey from far afield, it is now adept at catching the more difficult to catch prey. These once were the sustenance of the smaller octopi.

“They had developed special-ised methods of ensnaring this harder-to-catch prey and now they have to share. Now their existence is threatened. They either change to become more specialised or become more efficient, or die.”

But Mr Lopez said that in time even the big shopping centres would reach a limit on market share and would need to grow in size yet again to differentiate it from its competitors.

Mr Lopez foreshadowed possible renovation work at Westfield Galleria to keep ahead of competitors.

Westfield has also received development approval from the Stirling City Council for redevelopment of its Innaloo shopping centre.

Mr Lopez dismissed speculation that the Innaloo centre would be bulldozed. He said there were still examples of successful smaller centres like Herdsman Fresh at Floreat, Dianella Plaza, the Bentley Centre and The Park Centre.

“I believe that the secret to the success of the smaller centres is to focus on convenience and develop a niche at either the quality end or the value end. Do not languish around in the middle trying to be all things to all people,” Mr Lopez said.

“It is imperative that property owners do not let their centres fall into a state of disrepair and begin to accept third-rate retailers.”

Mr Lopez said while there was no magic cure for all centres, it was critical to get marketing right.

“Marketing is integrated in everything we do – from centre design, to signage, to carpark layout, to toilet design and to centre facilities,” he said.

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