Tiffany Sues Westfield--So Much for Getting Along

Our September cover story looks at the acrimony that has existed much of the year between landlords and tenants over concessions. It ultimately makes the argument that the two sides need to adopt a joint view of success and work together.

Concretely, I think that means that retailers and landlords need to be more involved in each others' business--in a positive way. Landlords can help retailers succeed by driving traffic to malls in both old and new ways. That means events and traditional advertising. It also means embracing social networking as a way of more aggressively engaging with regular patrons. Winning loyalty at a time when there's competition over every retail dollar can be the make-or-break difference in why your mall succeeds while the one down the road goes dark.

I think it also means landlords and tenants need to have conversations about tenant mix. What are the best complementary retailers for existing tenants? What kind of mix will help a mall thrive? How can retailers play a role in helping landlords fill vacancies? What can they do to be part of joint marketing efforts that malls launch?

So it's with a bit of reservation that I read this story, which details how Tiffany & Co. has sued Westfield over the pending addition of an H&M store to Westfield's Century City shopping center in Los Angeles.

Tiffany may have a legit argument or they may not. Frankly, I don't see how H&M could "cause irreparable injury" to Tiffany. I mean, in Manhattan Tiffany has sat about 0.2 tenths of a mile from H&M's Fifth Ave. flagship for years and to my knowledge it hasn't suffered one whit as a result.

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I don't know the back story. But it's sad to me that this dispute ended up in court. Isn't there a better use of each company's time and resources? I wonder if Tiffany ever broached the question more delicately before opting to sue? Neither company provided much information to the reporter in the story.

Regardless, it raises a question--what needs to happen for tenants and landlords to surmount the adversarial relationship that seems to permeate through the retail real estate industry today?

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