- The Washington Times - Monday, July 2, 2007

Westfield Montgomery and Westfield Annapolis are the first malls in the Washington area to offer a new service that allows shoppers to search the entire shopping center online for a product.

Shoppers can go to the mall’s Web site, westfield.com/montgomery or /annapolis, and under “product search” type in the name of a product — from a brand name such as IPod to a generic term such as jeans. The results will list all the stores that carry the product, with some photos, details, applicable discounts and price. From there, shoppers can reserve the product to pick it up in the store or, in some cases, buy it online through the retailer’s Web site.

The service, activated last month in both malls, is a step toward combining the rise of online shopping with brick-and-mortar shopping centers.

“A lot of people have looked at the growth of online sales and thought that means the death of shopping malls,” said Scott Dunlap, chief executive officer of NearbyNow, the Los Altos, Calif., company that runs the service. “One of the major trends we’re identifying now is that people like to research online and still prefer to buy in-store.”

A May study by the National Retail Federation and Forrester Research Inc. found that while online sales are climbing, shoppers still like to be able to touch and feel products, especially clothes or shoes, before they buy.

NearbyNow has plans to activate the service at Westfield Wheaton and the Mall in Columbia later this summer.

Typically, retailers update their product listings every 24 hours. But when a customer reserves a product, a NearbyNow employee calls the store to ensure that the product is still available. The shopper gets an e-mail within about 30 minutes, or up to two hours, to confirm that the product is in stock.

The search results are based on what previous searchers entered and clicked on. So typing in “curling iron” would result in six curling irons, as well as some unexpected results of curling hair serum, hair spray and two voltage converters.

Shoppers also can send a text message to “nearby” (632729)to get similar results while they’re shopping in the mall.

Also, Westfield Annapolis last week announced further details regarding its $100-million expansion expected to open in November.

The shopping center will get 14 new retailers, including three that target young adults and are new to the area:

* Metropark is a men’s and women’s clothing store that targets 20 and 30-somethings. Boasting weekend deejays, Metropark sells itself as a funky mix of fashion, music and art. Metropark, which opened its first locations on the West Coast in 2004, also plans to open a store in Towson Town Center this fall.

* Zumiez sells sports-related clothing, footwear, equipment and accessories. The chain, which has couches and video games that make it look more like an independent skate shop than a typical clothing store, targets 12- to 24-year-olds who are interested in skateboarding, snowboarding and surfing.

* Quiksilver also targets young adult surfing, skateboarding and snowboarding fans. The Westfield Annapolis location will be the company’s first stand-alone store in this area.

* Retail & Hospitality appears Mondays. Send news and tips to Jen Haberkorn at 202/636-4836 or jhaberkorn@washingtontimes.com.