Is Lowy following shoppers out of the shops?
One of the biggest chores of Christmas is getting out of shopping centres. Remembering where you parked the car, queuing to get out of the car park, then weaving through the traffic on a longer than usual trip home. One industry titan has decided it's time to head for the exit.
Sir Frank Lowy, founder of Westfield Corp, opened his first shopping centre in Sydney in 1959. He expanded his business across Australia initially and then internationally, developing and owning malls in the US, New Zealand and the UK. This week he agreed to sell Westfield for $25bn.
Christmas used to be a time when shopping centres were crammed with people, queues for the tills snaked around stores and staff looked forward to a brief break before the sales rush began. Owning the bricks and mortar the retailers operated from was a great business and Lowy became one of the richest men in Australia by doing so.
So why would he want to get out now? The most obvious answer is the internet.
In 2016 in the US, 46% of Christmas gifts were bought online. Online transactions are expected to outdo in-shop purchases very soon. Shopping centres suffered a 19.9% drop in footfall on Boxing Day 2016, compared to 2015, while online spending increased by around 6%.
These are significant numbers and just part of a lengthening trend. The higher end malls will point to their inclusion of technology in the shopping experience — sending offers to shoppers' mobiles as they wander around. High end restaurants and leisure facilities were added to make them destinations. But the decline in sales cannot be ignored.
Lowy may not have done his Christmas shopping yet, but his best deal may have been to get out of the shops.