VOL. MMXIII..No. 209

Retail By Design | The Brand Experience

Westfield Corporation Pushes Retail Innovation with ‘Bespoke’



For the past several years, Macy’s CEO Terry Lundgren has boasted of the massive insight and strategy in place to drive Millenials to Macy’s. Only problem is, it’s not working. Macy’s is… well, Macy’s. The fact is, most department stores and shopping malls are still moving at a snail’s pace when it comes to innovating their customer experience.


Not so for San Francisco’s Westfield Mall, who, along with developers Forest City launched Bespoke, a co-working and retail incubator located on the fourth floor of its historic building on Market Street. The target audience for Bespoke is – you guessed it – the thoroughly modern Millennial.  Two weeks ago, the so-called “innovation generation” was handed the keys to a new playground, one where, as is now de rigueur in the tech industry, the office is both a place to grow new ideas, network, and play. Call it the new country club.


Bespoke is a big, flamboyant roll of the dice for Westfield Group, who worked in partnership with Forest City to mastermind what may be the most luxurious and high-octane model for co-working and innovation the world has ever seen.

{ The office is both a place to grow new ideas, network, and play. Call it the new country club. }

Bespoke_Coworking_1An interior view of the open co-working space, which is bordered by private office suites. The goal with the design was to ensure flexibility, since membership plans are by the day, week, month or longer.

But they don’t see it as just a gamble. Look past the obvious cliches — phone booths, designer furniture, open kitchens brimming with snacks —  and this could be something that might just help animate the dull shopping mall in a whole new way.


Bespoke is not another experiment in “pop up” retail; rather, it is a very serious strategy to innovate retail from pop up to beyond.

“This presents a ripe opportunity for established retailers to reimagine their in-store experiences and infrastructure,” said a Westfield Corporation spokesperson. “It also serves as a unique testing ground for companies new to physical retail that want the chance to pilot new, exciting retail products and monitor their sales performance.”



Boudlering Cave


Hotel G Sleep NooksBespoke offers many of the signature perks that startups have come to expect. At Bespoke this includes a climbing wall, bocce court, and sleeping nooks. 

As expected, the space makes more than a few nods towards some of Silicon Valley’s celebrated tech firms and their now-famous offices full of comfy furniture, limitless meal service, and multiple work spaces that conform to any given mood. However this 37,000 square-foot space steps it up a notch with a more sleek, contemporary vibe that feels equal parts boutique hotel and nightclub, making Google and Facebook HQ’s look more like Sesame Street (which they kind of did anyway.)

{ Bespoke is not another experiment in “pop up” retail; rather, it is a very serious strategy to innovate retail from pop up to beyond. }

All work and no play? Not here. Here you’ll find a bocce and croquet court, a climbing wall, and sleeping nooks.

The Westfield Mall building was formerly the historic Emporium department store, and Steven Lowy, co-CEO of Westfield, called Bespoke a natural part of the trajectory for the legendary retail space.

“Westfield is one of the greatest downtown retail experiences in the United States. Here the physical, the digital, the retailer and the consumer are all in one place. To take an environment like this that has a history and move it forward is incredible.”



Indiegogo_Coworking Conference RoomAt the lavish opening event (top), guests were invited to kick the tires and try out the space, while enjoying free-flowing top shelf liquor and chef tables.

Sound enticing? You’ll need to know now that, with the wild demand for San Francisco office space, there is practically no room at the inn: virtually all of Bespoke’s private offices we saw were full, although Bespoke’s press rep assured us that “office and desk availability are always changing due to Bespoke’s unique flexibility.” Sounds like another way of saying: are you on the list?


Current retail tenants include StyleLend, a peer-to-peer garment lending company (which sounds dicey and makes me itch just thinking of it), Shoes of Prey, a customizable shoe brand, and Rovie Entertainment, Ltd., makers of Angry Birds, who is offering a virtual reality experience of it’s best-selling game.


But this isn’t just for show. Westfield’s strategy with Bespoke is not just to create an  incubator for new business but also for new business practice and insight, which is why firms like RetailNext, Inc. are getting the red carpet treatment, and housed in one of the larger private corner offices. Westfield’s aim is to harvest insights that eventually can be applied to its other malls around the world.

Bow & Drape_Coworking Pop-UpBespoke’s expansive program design includes several glassed-in conference rooms which can convert into storefronts, allowing for clients to launch pop up shops and other interactive market testing.


“As I think about the future of retail, places like bespoke are going to help that evolution,” said Forest City president and CEO, David LaRue, to a standing room-only crowd of attendees at Bespoke’s lavish opening event. “We want to take the best of what we learn here and translate it into other communities.”


Bespoke’s programming includes four separate retail storefronts that back into the co-working zone, becoming essentially a live focus group for startup executives seated on the other side of the glass.


Across the central esplanade and escalator hall is Bespoke’s huge event space, featuring interactive screen technology and all the amenities one could want for impressing the first-round investors. The space even has the capacity to present runway fashion shows.


The spaces can be rented by the day, week, or month with a wide variety of packages for those who simply want to drop in and work at one of the open desks. With prices hovering around and even above the market rate for San Francisco, Bespoke is no bargain, however for many, it’s an efficient way to bypass typical business startup costs and get in where the action is – especially if that action comes with built-in strategic networks and plug-and-play retail.


>> Learn more about Bespoke at www.bespokesf.co.

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