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SAN DIEGO-Retailers and shopping-center owners need to do more than put products on shelves and hope that consumers will shop. Retail of the future needs to provide more of an overall experience to keep up with other channels of commerce like the Internet, agreed panelists at the International Council of Shopping Centers’ western division conference here.

The job of the retail landlord is to bridge the gap between the consumer and the creative departments of manufacturers, says Kenneth Wong, president of US operations for Westfield Corp. “What are the new forms of relationships between consumers and retailers?,” he asks. “We help bring these customers and creative folks together.”

One particular retailer that does a good job of this is Apple, says Sophie Bundalo, head of retail for sunglasses manufacturer Oakley Inc. The company’s main strength is it ability to reach shoppers through a variety of channels, including its stores and Website.

Additionally, retailers and real estate owners shouldn’t be afraid to innovate and try new things, Wong says. “Consumers are more open-minded than our partners in the industry,” he observes.

One thing that Oakley did differently was place its product out where customers could touch it and try it on, Bundalo says. “For us to have everything locked up made no sense whatsoever,” she says.

The one thing that won’t change any time soon is the consumers’ desire to shop in retail centers, says David Rogers, partner and director of design at the Jerde Partnership, a design firm in Venice, CA. “People like being together,” he says. “I think people like to get together.”

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