Creating a desirable combination of wine and shopping, which one of you won't be willing to visit Westfield Old Orchard mall?
By: Soumya Jain
Posted on: July 16, 2014
Open air malls, which I have only seen in America till now, have many benefits. Especially when you live in a city like Chicago, where the sun shows up rarely, open air malls become the place to be to soak it in while enjoying an uninterrupted shopping trip!
Taking advantage of such a day, Westfield Old Orchard mall in Skokie (a Chicago suburb) recently held the third edition of its Sip & Shop event. The mission? Shop while you sip on some exquisite wines and liquors! The live music in the background contributed in making a wonderful ambience.
So while some of the participating stores had offers and in-store events, they also had chilled wine this day to sample, and probably buy later on if you liked it enough! Bloomingdale’s hosted a Tom Ford fragrance launch party with truffles, Sunglass Hut offered special discounts and Mario Tricoci a free manicure and pedicure! It was all about roaming around and exploiting these little delights that many stores offered.
Another interesting feature of this event was a special wine class by Mr David Glancy from San Francisco Wine School. Sipping through four wines, with many a joke in between, he taught us novices about how to understand and identify a wine, and consequently, your own tastes too!
The educative class concluded with a special VIP party on the terrace with small bites, an upbeat DJ and a huge collection of liquor to sample and buy. My favourites included the Laurent Perrier Brut Vintage 2004 champagne (aged eight years with an equal mix of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir), Purity Vodka from Sweden and Valentine Woodward Ltd Whiskey. A unique photo station and lively chatter completed the picture! With all this, I am looking forward to the next Sip & Shop happening on July 24, 2014!
Amidst all this happening, we caught up with Ms Shannon Ridgeway, Senior Marketing Director of Westfield Old Orchard, and asked her about the concept and its future.
Soumya Jain: Congratulations on a successful Sip & Shop event! It was really enjoyable. How did the concept come into being? What was the inspiration?
Shannon Ridgeway: We wanted to give our style-savvy customers the opportunity to enjoy the park-like atmosphere of our outdoor center during the short, yet beautiful Chicago summer in a unique way that highlighted our strengths and provided a variety of stores and restaurants for shoppers to experience. Sip & Shop is a way for shoppers to bring their shopping style "off-line" and enjoy all that the center has to offer first-hand. For this year's events, we loved the idea of traveling on an adventure in fine wine. We procured some amazing wine vendors and sponsors to partake in the event, and thought a theme highlighting a sojourn into the world of wine would work perfectly.
SJ: This was the third Sip & Shop event. How has it grown from the previous two editions?
SR: Each year we aim to improve upon the existing experience for our attendees at Sip & Shop. In the past, the event had been a bit confined and did not offer as many entertainment elements. This year we wanted to create an unforgettable experience for our shoppers by expanding the event with energetic additions. Those included even more live entertainment, such as a musical performance by R-Gang, a popular R&B dance band; a watercolor "selfie" artist and large scale chalk artist; and even a DIY art station from popular studio, Bottles & Bottega. In addition, to cater to the sophisticated taste of our shoppers, we expanded our wine program, offering a different wine at each of our 20 + stops.
We also instituted a VIP after party for the first time. This portion of the event was held on The Rooftop space of the center and featured a variety of premium wines and spirits, as well as a live segment taping in conjunction with Wine Channel TV, another first-time partnership for the center and Sip & Shop event. The VIP event even featured the option for guests to purchase the wines that they tasted through our sponsor, Binny's Beverage Depot. Proceeds from Sip & Shop also benefit our center's charity partner, Bright Pink, a non-profit dedicated to breast cancer and ovarian cancer awareness. These elements helped the event to stand out among the plethora of summer activities that abound throughout the city and suburbs.
SJ: Do you plan to include more stores' participation into the event as you go along every year?
SR: Participation from our retailers is a very important part of all of the events that we execute at Westfield Old Orchard. For the June Sip & Shop event, we highlighted the retailers of the north end of the center, offering 25 "Sip Stops" with wonderful wines and five "Taste Stops" with light bites, as well as 26 retailers offering special offers and in-store activations. For the July Sip & Shop event, we will feature the retailers of the south end of the mall. We encourage all our retailers to participate in Sip & Shop as it’s a fun and engaging way to interact with consumers.
SJ: Do you plan to replicate the event in other Westfield malls?
SR: Westfield centers are always planning entertaining and creative events, and the centers across Illinois are no exceptions. At Westfield Old Orchard, we are focused on bringing our shoppers "Four Seasons of Style". Each Westfield center has different messaging to use as inspiration to build a variety of exciting events over the summer and beyond.
SJ: Behind the scenes, how much planning goes into conceptualising and executing the event?
SR: Sip & Shop is a production all of its own! We want to ensure our guests have an impeccable experience. It is very important that we offer shoppers a variety of participating retailers and restaurants, and procuring this participation is a huge priority for us. From scouting talent and entertainment and coordinating photographers, to securing and delivering wine for the retailers and transforming the center's landscape, our team puts in countless hours to create a successful event. Our shoppers have come to expect only the best from Westfield Old Orchard, and we like to deliver this through a flawlessly executed event.