· The Westfield Garden State Plaza is getting an upgrade
· Mobile data shows the center is already a powerful draw for visitors when they have time to spare
· The new upgrade will focus on enhancing that strength while driving more daily visits and extending dwell time
The Westfield Garden State Plaza – the top shopping center in New Jersey, and one of CNBC’s top ten in the US – is getting a major upgrade.
Unibail-Rodamco-Westfield said it will begin remodeling the inside of the center to add more chef-backed eateries, entertainment for families and health-and-wellness tenants. The project will even include the launch of a new residential space, office building and hotel alongside public parks and open green space – all expected to be completed by 2022.
According to Unibail-Rodamco-Westfield’s US President Jean-Marie Tritant, the renovation will help the shopping center maintain its leadership in a rapidly changing landscape. The goal is clear – increase dwell time.
To break down the move and analyze its potential impact, we compared the Westfield Garden State Plaza to its closest competitor, The Outlets at Bergen Town Center, the top-ranked shopping centers in New Jersey.
Westfield’s Current Strength - Weekends and Holidays
The Westfield Garden State Plaza is the dominant force among the two, driving significant visits throughout the year. From January 2017 through April 2019, the center received 23.6% more visits than the Outlets at Bergen Town Center.
The current strength of the Westfield Garden State Plaza is its ability to draw visitors during high shopping times and vacation periods. The center enjoyed a jump of nearly 79% above their baseline average during the last two weeks of December in 2017 and an average increase of over 70% during the same period in 2018.
This indicates that the center has established itself as a destination worth visiting when individuals have time to spare. By comparison, The Outlets at Bergen Town Center saw a baseline increase of only 4% in 2017 and less than 1% in 2018.
This phenomenon is also reflected in the distance visitors travel to visit the centers. 73.5% of OBTC customers come from within 10 miles, 13% more than WGSP. By creating more reason for people to live and work nearby, they can drive greater traffic to the fitness centers and restaurants that can serve as focal points for a visitors daily routine.
This difference is especially significant as the two centers compete within nearly identical trade areas.
Upgrading Their One Weakness
What makes the current renovation of the Westfield Garden State Plaza so significant is that it aims to strengthen the center’s destination appeal while addressing very a specific weakness – growing midweek and morning traffic.
While the Westfield Garden State Plaza sees very high percentages of its visits on Friday and Saturday (18.1% and 28.9%), it sees its lead over The Outlets at Bergen Town Center drop dramatically during the middle of the week.
The push to include fitness centers, residential areas, and office space is aimed at increasing dwell time, but will also push more regular, mid-week visits.
These activities also tend to drive traffic during non-peak periods for the Westfield Garden State Plaza. The Westfield Garden State Plaza see 39% of its overall visits from 6-11pm, as opposed to The Outlets at Bergen Town Center which sees less than 29% during that time period.
The Outlets at Bergen Town Center also sees a larger percentage of its visits coming earlier in the day with 18.1% between 10am-1pm, a 20% increase over that time period for the Westfield Garden State Plaza.
Conclusion - Driving Down Time Buzz
While the Westfield Garden State Plaza already serves as a strong draw for visitors willing to travel to make the visit. The new renovation offers a powerful opportunity to complement this existing strength with a strong capacity to drive stronger midweek and midday visits. The combination of these strengths could unlock the full potential of a shopping center already considered one of the strongest in the US.
Unibail-Rodamco-Westfield is not a customer and was not consulted for this article.