According to The Australian Financial Review today, Frank's son, Steven, has formed Westfield Labs in San Francisco as a global digital laboratory focused on going "phygital" – or making malls places where the physical and digital converge – a concept due to be rolled out in part in the retail space at New York's World Trade Center later in 2015.
"But how?" Frank asked. Online retailers still need somewhere to display their wares. Rather than having a scattering of small shops, they will have a few large showrooms. Iconic malls can accommodate these.
These malls are like mini-cities and the idea is to enable consumers to go online and plan their trip. From home they can make a list and search for items among the hundreds of stores and millions of products in the centre. As they do this, they will receive up-to-date information about products and services.
Their plan and shopping list will be on their phone and as soon as they arrive the mall will register their arrival, connect them in various dimensions of personal shopping and reward them if they happen to be frequent shoppers.
If they choose, they can disengage from this digital world and have a traditional mall experience.
Since Frank opened Westfield's first mall in 1959, then, hands-free shopping, valet parking and home deliveries have become par for the course, but the internet is adding a new dimension. It can make the process less clunky, more transparent and will enable the mall to reach into people's homes.