Westfield tipped to launch virtual shopping centre

Shopping centre giant Westfield is reportedly preparing to launch a virtual shopping centre that would take orders on behalf of retailers in what would represent the company’s first major foray into eCommerce.

But the success of the project will depend on how the site is structured, one retail expert warns.

As reported by The Age, Westfield is currently in negotiations with tenants to include them on the website. Once the virtual shopping centre is operational, the company would accept orders on behalf of those retailers.

Westfield was contacted for confirmation on whether the program is going ahead, but no reply was received before publication.

It is reported the virtual store would have a heavy emphasis on fashion products, with other categories to be included. The Westfield.com.au website will allow users to make payments.

”It’s true to say there’s activity happening,” a spokesman said. ”The fact is that we continue to develop our internet technologies and our relationships with retailers.”

The comments come after chairman Frank Lowy last month said the company was “moving with the times” with regard to technology.

Retail Doctor chief executive Brian Walker says the virtual shopping centre would be a significant improvement for Australian online retail, but maintains its success would depend on the structure.

“The devil will be in the detail. At face value, this could be a very good example of a solid integrated platform and it would make sense,” he says.

“But as to what impact it will have for physical retailers, I’m not sure… we’ll have to wait and see.”

“The question is, are they proposing this to become a portal retail site, or do they want this to become a marketplace, so to speak, for all the different retailers? Are they doing this to create another revenue channel? Those are the questions that need to be answered.”

Walker says the portal would be a solid example of where a major retailer is responding to major consumer demand.

“So because of that, it’s a good move. But whether they propose to do it in partnership with these retailers or on their own, or through another way, remains to be seen.”

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