Outdoor market fills mall void in San José – SFBay

As Covid-19 closed malls, Westfield Valley Fair reinvented shopping with an outdoor market.

A row of red and white pop-up tents invite patrons to browse the latest fashions, watch an art demonstration, or grab a snack on a food truck. Luxury brands like Cartier, Tiffany & Co. and Versace offer tours by appointment to cabins inside the mall. This is Westfield Valley Fair’s solution to shopping malls shutting down the state on July 15 due to an increase in Covid-19 in Santa Clara County.

Sue Newsom, Senior General Manager of Westfield Valley Fair, said:

“Participating retailers are thrilled because it allows customers to think about their brand. Everyone tries to do their best to serve the customer and keep the businesses running. It was a way for us to do it off the beaten track.

The market, open from 1 p.m. to 7 p.m. from Friday to Sunday, was designed by Newsom. The idea came to him one day during a conference call with executives. The outdoor market started on July 24 with seven retailers and it now numbers nearly 30. Newsom said the longer the malls are closed, the more people will come to the outdoor market.

Newsom said the market, which offers everything from accessories to beauty products and sportswear, has been a positive experience for both customers and retailers.

Lorraine Gabbert / San José SP Westfield Valley Fair in Santa Clara, California is having success with an outdoor market during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Newsom said:

“There is just a great synergy and atmosphere. People appreciated it. It’s really nice to see this excitement.

Customers such as Lowell Su have said they like the open-air vibe of the market and the food trucks nearby.

Su said:

“It’s a really exciting way to keep stores open while still being able to keep going. It seems like the right way to go about it.

The market was so successful that Westfield Oakridge followed suit, opening theirs on July 31.

Julian Esposito, Managing Director of Westfield Oakridge, said:

“We have seen incredible participation from the community and very supportive and enthusiastic guests ready to shop. As we navigate this “new normal”, we look for creative ways to serve the community, our customers and our retailers, and deliver a fantastic and safe shopping experience. “

Esposito said the mall’s expanded patios have helped restaurants accommodate more customers and recruit more waiters and team members.

Santa Clara County malls briefly opened on June 15 to a flock of enthusiastic shoppers, but were closed again after the county was put on the state’s watchlist for a high number of hospitalizations of Covid-19. They have largely remained closed since mid-July.

Westfield has posted a Covid-19-related signage at its South Bay malls reminding customers to socially distance themselves, wear masks and use hand sanitizer. Shopping centers currently have limited domestic operations.

At Westfield Valley Fair, department stores such as Bloomingdale’s, Macy’s and Nordstrom continue to operate, as well as retailers with exterior entrances like CH Premier, Louis Vuitton and Prada, which are open by appointment. Other retailers offer curbside pickup.

Restaurants, such as California Pizza Kitchen and Din Tai Fung, offer al fresco dining, and Salt & Straw ice cream is open in the plaza.

Spotlight on Lorraine Gabbert / San José “In tough times, people come together,” said Ginhee Rancourt, founder of Young Art, at the outdoor market set up when the Santa Clara, Calif., Westfield Valley Fair closed shopping center during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Newsom said the outdoor market has given retailers the opportunity to make up for months of lost sales while following guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Newsom said:

“We hold everyone accountable for meeting these standards. There is a small percentage of having to ask people to wear their masks. Usually someone has a mask on and just forgot to wear it. “

The new exterior setup has also helped retailers typically stuck in their stories mingle with each other.

Newsom said:

“They’ve built partnerships and relationships because of it. When you are in your store everyday, you don’t have this opportunity.

Ginhee Rancourt, founder of Young Art, which offers art lessons for children, agrees that camaraderie is a great motivator.

Rancourt said:

“In difficult times, people come together. It will succeed thanks to the spirit of optimism, courage and innovation of the retailers. It’s a lot of work to lug your stuff around, but we’re really dedicated.

Monique Fuentes, Store Manager for Coach, said she was happy to see customer traffic increase every weekend.

Spotlight on Lorraine Gabbert / San José Coaching staff Stephanie Calderon, Adriana Gomez and Monique Fuentes sell merchandise at the outdoor market set up outside the Westfield Valley Fair mall in Santa Clara, California.

Fuentes said:

“This is what we have to do. This is what we do for a living and being locked inside is not fair. You have to be creative and think of other ways to survive. People want to go out, and it’s a safe place for them. The open air market was very successful. We have a lot of new buyers.

Reinventing itself is nothing new for Westfield Valley Fair, which recently spent $ 1.1 billion on a gradual overhaul, including landscaped outdoor plazas, 100 new stores, Bloomingdale’s, health and wellness amenities and a full service medical office.

The general managers of Westfield Valley Fair and Westfield Oakridge said they plan to continue their outdoor markets until the state and county authorize the full reopening of in-store malls.

Newsom said:

“It has been fun to see everyone come together as a team. It took something that was tough and made it into something great. “

This story was originally published by San Jose Spotlight.

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Peggy P. Gilmore