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Westfield malls to cut shopping hours

Most of the centers in the U.S. will open 30 minutes later and close 30 minutes earlier on weekdays. Some will close an hour earlier Sundays.

February 20, 2009|Andrea Chang

The owner of Westfield Century City, Westfield Topanga and more than a dozen other shopping centers in Southern California announced plans Thursday to cut shopping hours at nearly all of its 55 U.S. malls starting March 1.

Most of Westfield Group's malls will open 30 minutes later and close 30 minutes earlier on weekdays, spokeswoman Katy Dickey said. About a third will close an hour earlier on Sundays; hours will generally stay the same on Saturdays. Westfield did not provide specifics on changes for each shopping center.

The company said the move was intended to help struggling retailers save money. "What we're hoping to do is help our retailers save, conserve resources and respond to changing consumer demand and traffic patterns," Dickey said.

The decision comes at a brutal time for the retail industry: Sales are falling, big-name companies are filing for bankruptcy protection, and stores are shutting their doors for good. Shortened hours would help retailers cut payroll, utilities and other costs, and could be a strategy that other mall owners try in coming months.

Executives at Macerich Co., a Santa Monica-based shopping center chain, have been monitoring hourly foot traffic at the company's malls and meeting with retailers to determine hourly sales volume, said Ken Gillett, senior vice president of property management.

"We're carefully studying our operating hours right now, because the world today is different now than it was six months ago," he said. "But we want to be very careful so we don't hurt our retailers or hurt ourselves."

Dickey said Westfield's retailers were consulted in recent weeks and that the idea to cut hours was "well received." Department store, restaurant and movie theater hours will remain the same.

A few malls will not be affected, she said, including Horton Plaza in San Diego and San Francisco Centre.

Westfield, based in Australia, is one of the world's largest shopping center companies. It owns 24 regional malls in California, with 17 in Southern California.

Some mall owners were concerned that reduced hours would turn off consumers.

Jennifer Gordon, a spokeswoman for Caruso Affiliated, which owns the Grove shopping center in the Fairfax district and the Americana in Glendale, said the company had no plans to cut hours.

"Fortunately, we're doing OK and we haven't come to that," Gordon said. "I'm sure it reduces the overhead and reduces some costs, but it's not great for the consumer because people work all day and they want to shop after work and expect the stores to be open."


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