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What brand of mall do you like?

The Westfield charm offensive begins. Last week two articles in the Chronicle about restaurants and a high-end market in the The Food Emporium, Westfield San Francisco Centre's food hall. Sunday, in the business section, more about Westfield's financial brawn and the company's efforts to be a brand in itself. Malls used to be anonymous delivery systems for branded entities- Bloomingdales, Williams-Sonoma, Cinnabon, The Scotch Tape Store- and symbols of suburban ennui and midlife crisis. Now Westfield wants to brand the experience.

The Food Emporium is presumably a reference to the site's old occupant, Emporium. The Food Emporium is also an icky chain of New York metro-area supermarkets ("feel like a gourmet... everyday!") meaning a yuck factor for transplanted New Yorkers; others may find the name charming and all Olde San Francisco. Instead they'll get to shop at the upscale Bristol Farms. This formula has been successful for Westfield in Asia and Australia, so they're not just hopping on the Ferry Building bandwagon, and it's not just about retail. SF State University's new downtown campus will be under the same roof, building in another hungry audience.

With food, shopping, school, offices, a cineplex- and probably a spa tucked away somewhere- it would be interesting to see if Westfield has a "length of visit" projection.
· Big Money Behind Big Malls [SF Chronicle]
· Downtown Renovation Nears Completion [SF Chronicle]
· Inside Scoop [SF Chronicle, 3rd item]
· New Tenants [SF Chronicle]