Cadillac Fairview Launches Groundbreaking and Disruptive Shopping Centre Experience Initiative

Cadillac Fairview is innovating with a new business entity called ‘Ravel by CF’ that will disrupt the shopping centre landscape in Canada. Operating as something of an ‘in-house tech company’, Ravel utilizes digital platforms with connected technologies and artificial intelligence to improve the overall consumer experience in the landlord’s centres, while at the same time removing ‘friction points’ that are common in busy shopping malls nationwide. Cadillac Fairview will continue to perfect Ravel as it looks to the future of shopping centres globally, and competing landlords will no doubt be taking notice.

The Ravel by CF initiative comes at a challenging time for shopping centre landlords in Canada, as retailers close stores and international brands continue to enter the already crowded market. The word ‘Ravel’ is a derivative of the word ‘unravel’ — some are saying that the industry is ‘unraveling’ and Cadillac Fairview is looking to ‘bring it back together’ with Ravel’s goal to create positive consumer experiences not currently available at other shopping centre properties.

Cadillac Fairview is an anchor investor in the new $150-million fund from Framework Venture Partners, which is a Canada-focused technology venture capital firm. About $50-million is from the Business Development Bank of Canada and another $50-million is from Cadillac Fairview, RBC and British Columbia’s BC Tech Fund.

Cadillac Fairview Executive Vice President Jose Ribau is leading the Ravel business entity which is described as being “a highly integrated operating model that both disrupts and gives support to the industry from within”. Ravel’s data-driven model is agile with the capability to capitalize on market trends, while at the same time being able to respond quickly to evolving needs of consumers, retailers and office clients.

“Ravel by CF will create an engagement platform to enhance the businesses of brands and retailers while providing a more seamless, enjoyable experience for our consumers. Our integrated model gives us a strategic advantage in the market, allowing us to be more nimble and anticipate the needs of our consumers, our retailers and the office employees in our properties,” he said.

Cadillac Fairview’s aim is to ultimately improve the retail sales conversion for its retailers. Mr. Ribau explained how the landlord has a role in helping physical stores be profitable, and Ravel is able to do that by educating consumers about retailers and products available, while at the same time removing friction points that might otherwise lead to negative consumer experiences. As a result, Cadillac Fairview malls may become preferable to those of competitors.

At a time when many consumers are choosing to shop online for convenience, Ravel seeks to bridge the gap between physical and online retail — studies show that physical retail is able to drive sales to online brands, with digital-only brands such as Frank And Oak, Indochino and Warby Parker opening physical stores with considerable success.

Ravel’s enhanced in-mall experiences include tailored services and offerings, product and retailer suggestions, better way finding in shopping centres, improvements to access such as parking and transportation, food delivery, easier payments, and anything else that might otherwise be a ‘friction point’ that could use improvement. Apps will be part of the initiative, be it third-party or those developed by Ravel as learning progresses.

One way Ravel will look to enhance the shopping experience at Cadillac Fairview malls is through product and store suggestions. For example, a shopper may be looking to buy a pair of black shoes, and suggestions of different retailers can be provided. Prior to speaking with a sales associate in any specific store, some will utilize information provided to them on their mobile device to help focus their search. Ravel also helps narrow down choices that might otherwise be overwhelming. 

Montreal-based footwear retailer Aldo is an early partner in the Ravel initiative, according to David Bensadoun, CEO of Aldo. “Our transformation to a true omni-channel retailer includes physical stores as incredible assets that drive brand equity, customer experience and data collection. We are excited to be an early partner to help shape the shopping experience of the future together with Ravel by CF,” he said.

Cadillac Fairview is already a very strong landlord in Canada. Of the top 10 most productive shopping centres in Canada as ranked by annual sales per square foot, five centres are managed by Cadillac Fairview. That’s according to Retail Council of Canada’s 2018 Canadian Shopping Centre Study which lists and analyses the country’s top 30 centres (13 of which are Cadillac Fairview properties).

Other landlords with top properties in Canada include Oxford Properties (with Yorkdale being the most productive mall in Canada), Ivanhoé Cambridge, QuadReal, and a handful of other smaller management companies. It remains to be seen what innovations these landlords might bring to the table following Cadillac Fairview’s tech-focused initiative. Oxford Properties continues to innovate with technology as well as by adding more food and beverage offerings to its malls — that includes food halls as well as full-service restaurants. Ivanhoé Cambridge and QuadReal are also upgrading their properties by brining in food halls and food markets while also continuing to upgrade and redevelop some properties . We’ll be watching Canada’s shopping centre landlords as they react to Ravel by CF — competition is fierce and over the past five years Canada’s malls have seen billions in investments, more than at any time in our history.

Article Author

Craig Patterson
Craig Patterson
Now located in Toronto, Craig is a retail analyst and consultant at the Retail Council of Canada. He's also the Director of Applied Research at the University of Alberta School of Retailing in Edmonton. He has studied the Canadian retail landscape for the past 25 years and he holds Bachelor of Commerce and Bachelor of Laws Degrees. He is also President & CEO of Vancouver-based Retail Insider Media Ltd.

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