Last week I was invited to hear about the planned renovation of the Valencia Town Center Mall. It was a small gathering of local gentry to hear from the Westfield executives and see some concept renderings of the planned improvements for the aged shopping mall. It was all a bit underwhelming.

The Westfield executive who presented was amiable and well-spoken and during his presentation used the word—cosmetic—to describe the planned renovation. I thought the envisioned update for the tired mall made it clean and airy looking. The planned replacement of the floors, new common area furniture, painting and adding architectural features tying the patios, mall and Town Center Drive together more thematically looked good. These are all fine improvements but will that increase foot traffic? Not for me it won’t.

I have not walked through the main part of the mall in nearly four-years. Yes, I have gone to some of the restaurants on the Patios and the Apple store. I regularly go to the Edwards movie theater and Salt Creek Grill at the top of Town Center Drive. But I rarely, if ever, shop for goods at the mall. Like many today, I do nearly all my shopping online not just for the convenience but also for the fact that my purchases are almost always in stock in the quantity and size I want. That is generally not the case at retail stores.

Let me use The Gap as an example. I was nearly always frustrated by the fact that The Gap was typically out of stock on my size jeans. It is beyond me why a store today can’t have one of every size for fitting purposes. It would allow the customer to try it on and if they like it, the store can just ship it from a central facility  to the customer. Yes, the retail store should be more of a hybrid—selling merchandise as well as being a showroom to let the customer try on any outfit in any size.

Beyond that, malls have to create experiences not just on a retail level but also on an environmental and entertainment level. Why do I want to go to the mall? What will make me want to visit the mall as a destination? There has to be a reason to get me to go into the mall. That was the missing component from the Westfield presentation. They have not addressed the fundamental issue with malls in general—the declining foot traffic because of the increasing ease of shopping online. How are they countering that and how will malls evolve to stay relevant? Painting and changing out the flooring is only putting lipstick on the pig.

I have no doubt that the remodel will nice, but is that enough to sustainably increase foot traffic beyond the initial looky-loo phase. I don’t think so. There needs to be structural changes to the mall that will make it a experiential destination. There were no plans announced for what will be done with the vacant stores like Sears or if there will be automotive showrooms added. Why not engage the auto dealers and instead of dropping the odd car here and there, setup a spacious showroom that showcases many models. Think outside the box and spitball some ideas that will truly make the mall a “town center.”

It’s all about a forward looking vision, which is in short supply in much of SCV. Notify me when there is a grand plan and maybe I’ll actually visit the mall again. Until then, I’m happy to do my shopping online—it’s less hassle and they always seem to have my size whether clothing or shoes. Guest experience rules.

Dave Bossert—Commentary

Dave Bossert is a community volunteer who serves on a number of boards and councils. His commentaries represent his own opinions and not necessarily the views of any organization he may be affiliated with or those of The SCV Beacon.