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The secret diary of the Westfield study tour – San Francisco

by Garry Connell

golden gate bridge

Day 0

Spent the day in the Napa Valley which was breathtaking. Among the many vineyards we sampled, the pick was definitely the Hess Estate.

Donald Hess was just 20 when his Dad died and was forced to take on the family business which revolved around a beer brewery in Switzerland. In the 1960’s he anticipated the surge in demand for bottled water, so Vaiser Water was born. Vaiser Water quickly became the number one exporter of water from Switzerland to the US.  In 1978 he purchased Mount Veeder in the Napa Valley and now owns a substantial number of vineyards in South Africa, Argentina, the US and after purchasing Peter Lehman wines he can include Australia.

 While the ambience of the rustic vineyard covered in native vegetation was more than enough to go and see, the surprise was that Donald Hess developed a love of art resulting in a free exhibition at his vineyard which is now one of the world’s top 100 contemporary art collections. That in itself took 2 hours to view and then among the paintings was a window showing of the bottle filling and corking production line.

Day 1

We’ve just experienced the hottest May 14 since 1922, with temperatures hitting 100 degrees F.

 We had an interesting visit to the flagship Levi’s store which covered around 2000 square metres. Following the trend of customisation last August, they opened a store within a store – “The Levi’s Tailor Shop”. Only the third of its kind globally (the other two are in New York and London) the dedicated creative staff will help you design your own unique pair of denims and then over 6 – 8 weeks an instore tailor will hand make them for you.

 The fitting takes about an hour and at $750 – $950 per pair, I was not surprised to hear them say they only sell a couple of pairs a week. Have they had any celebrity customers? Last month Bill Clinton took delivery of his one of a kind Levi’s.

 Day 2

Today we had Alan Svensen, Store Director of Bloomingdales present his ideas on service levels.  He believes that every customer that comes into your store is comparing your service and their experience to what they receive at Apple. Whilst every online customer is comparing the process and experience to what they receive at Amazon. Those two have clearly set the benchmark for all retail!

 Day 3

 We did a pit stop by one of the clothing chains taking the world by storm, Uniqlo. Uniqlo now has outlets in the US, France, Bangladesh, Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, Philippines, South Korea, China, United Kingdom, Indonesia and most recently Australia and Germany.  Did you realise that that every single major Uniqlo store will close the doors to their customers for a full sales day, 2-3 times a year to do inventory/stock take?