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The Questionnaire: Four mega-mall execs on how to lure shoppers in the e-commerce era

“If your mall focuses only on products customers can buy online, you’ll have problems”

By Barry Jordan Chong
The Questionnaire: Four mega-mall execs on how to lure shoppers in the e-commerce era
Sal Iacono

CEO, Cadillac Fairview
Flagship mall: Eaton Centre

Dream job as a kid: “An astronaut. I loved science and the idea of travelling to outer space.” Celebrity doppelgänger: “A young Martin Scorsese.” Favourite food court item: “Shanghai 360 is my guilty treat.” Drive to the mall or take the TTC: “I usually drive to my office, which is connected to the Eaton Centre, from midtown. It’s a quick one. When was the last time you walked in one of your malls? “Today, and every day I’m at the office, I walk through the Eaton Centre. And I make a point of visiting our other malls—we have 18 across the country—at least twice a year.” Dream tenant: “We’ve landed a lot of premier international retailers. What would be great is to build something like Paris’s Galeries Lafayette. The architecture is breathtaking. That would be a unique addition to the Canadian landscape.” Favourite mall that isn’t yours: “South Coast Plaza in Southern California. It’s got the right mix of aspirational brands, luxury brands and food offerings.” Key to a great attraction: “It has to be entertaining, and it must appeal to as many customers as possible.” Toronto needs another mall downtown—yea or nay? “Nay. I don’t have one tenant asking for more space downtown. Retailers understand these things.” A misconception about your industry: “People often think commercial landlords have the power to dictate rents.” The biggest thing holding malls back: “We need more help from cities to adapt to new technologies. For example, autonomous vehicles will reduce the need for parking. How do you plan for that so it benefits the community?” Building condos on top of malls—good or bad? “Building them adjacent to a mall is an excellent thing. Building them right on top is much harder.”


The Questionnaire: Four mega-mall execs on how to lure shoppers in the e-commerce era
Sherif Masood

Head of asset management, Oxford Properties
Flagship mall: Yorkdale Shopping Centre

Dream job as a kid: “To own a neighbourhood restaurant and store. Growing up, my dad’s friend had a Middle Eastern place. I spent a day working there and loved interacting with people and making decisions.” Celebrity doppelgänger: “When I had a different hairstyle, Bruno Mars. People have also said I look like Dwayne Johnson.” Favourite food court item: “A bowl from Chipotle.” Drive to the mall or take the TTC: “If I’m going with my family, I’ll drive. If I’m going to work, I’ll take the TTC.” When was the last time you walked one of your malls? “Just last week at Yorkdale. I was checking in with the team and seeing the new store openings.” Dream tenant: “Personally, I think Trader Joe’s would do amazingly well in Canada.” Hardest part of your job: “Assets like Yorkdale need more space to meet demand—which is insane considering how the pandemic has affected retail these past few years.” Favourite mall that isn’t yours: “Cloverdale Mall. I grew up in Mississauga and live in Etobicoke now. The number of independent owners in that mall, to this day, is neat and rare.” Key to a great attraction: “We’ve leaned in to celebrating cultural and religious holidays, like Ramadan. As a child of immigrants, it’s inspiring. For Lunar New Year, we installed a 40-foot dragon at Yorkdale.” Toronto needs another mall downtown—yea or nay? “Nay.” A misconception about your industry: “Malls are not dead—far from it. Our foot traffic and sales have rebounded to record levels.” Building condos on top of malls—good or bad? “It depends on your situation. We’re fortunate to have a lot of land around our malls, so we’re not going to build condos above.”


The Questionnaire: Four mega-mall execs on how to lure shoppers in the e-commerce era
Toby Wu

Executive vice-president, development, QuadReal
Flagship mall: Cloverdale Mall

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Dream job as a kid: “I grew up in Vancouver as a Jays, Canucks and Grizzlies fan, so I wanted to be a multi-sport athlete.” Celebrity doppelgänger: “In my younger days, I wanted to be Jet Li.” Drive to the mall or take the TTC: “I prefer the TTC. I work at King and Bay, so it’s easy.” When was the last time you walked one of your malls? “Just last weekend. I went to Cloverdale to see the new exhibitions.” Dream tenant: “Maybe some sort of Asian food offering, like Yueh Tung.” Hardest part of your job: “Balancing the wants and needs of our stakeholders—city staff, politicians, customers, tenants.” Key to a great exhibition: “It has to be more than just a short-term visual installation. It needs to be used on a regular basis. At Cloverdale, we partner with Arts Etobicoke to feature local artists.” Toronto needs another mall downtown—yea or nay? “Nay. In general, downtown has a very vibrant retail landscape—King, Queen, Spadina, the Path and so on.” The biggest thing holding malls back: “E-commerce. If your mall focuses only on products customers can buy online, you’ll have problems.” Building condos on top of malls—good or bad? “It’s a good thing. Where else can you find large tracts of land that aren’t densified? And a lot of our centres have access to mass transit.”


The Questionnaire: Four mega-mall execs on how to lure shoppers in the e-commerce era
David Wyatt

Senior vice president, retail, Morguard
Flagship Mall: Bramalea City Centre

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Dream job as a kid: “I wanted to be in a rock band. My first record was Queen’s A Night at the Opera.” Celebrity doppelgänger: “Bobby Flay.” Favourite food court item: “I grew up in Windsor, and Somerset Collection Mall across the border had the best deli sandwiches. Canada doesn’t have enough great deli chains.” Drive to the mall or take the TTC: “I live in Burlington, and our office is next to Square One, so I’m pretty chained to the car.” When was the last time you walked one of your malls? “Yesterday. We have our team meetings in our malls, monthly if we can.” Dream tenant: “We’ve been trying to bring Zara to Bramalea City Centre for a while.” Hardest part of your job: “Managing the career expectations of our retail team.” Key to a great exhibition: “You need something that has a great vibe and works well with the food offerings. We recently hosted a roller-skating rink at Bramalea, and it was terrific.” Toronto needs another mall downtown—yea or nay? “They just built the Well. We’re good for now.” A misconception about your industry: “People don’t understand that malls are communities—a mix of retailers that work well together. We agonize over curating that mix.” The biggest thing holding malls back: “We can’t recycle space easily, especially when it comes to those massive former department stores. That’s why so many of them are being demolished.” Building condos on top of malls—good or bad? “Good. We’re looking to introduce 1,000 units above Bramalea. It’s an opportunity to get young people out of their parents’ basements and to give empty nesters a chance to stay in their community. Everything they need will be just down the elevator.”

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