The world’s highest-grossing mall turns 45 this year and is celebrating its anniversary by reaching $1.5 billion in sales, projected for 2012. While South Coast Plaza has seen several expansions and renovations in the past four and a half decades, its most notable transformation has been its evolution into an iconic destination with a reputation for luxury. Forward thinking and an ability to continually attract new high-profile retailers to Orange County have kept SCP fresh and focused on the latest trends.
In the mid-1970s, the Segerstroms – who founded and still own South Coast Plaza – realized a vision they had for the mall: a destination for luxury brands. Investing in a luxury mall was a gamble for the Segerstrom family, as Orange County’s tourism and market demographics didn’t provide the same demand for high-end goods in the 1970s as they do today.
“Most developers of malls at the time weren’t willing to take the risk in a luxury direction without knowing it would be successful,” says Debra Gunn Downing, South Coast Plaza’s executive director of marketing.
But the Segerstroms saw untapped potential for a luxury market in Orange County; 45 years later, their vision has filled a demand for top-notch products and created a shopping mecca that sets the standard for luxury malls worldwide. SCP has drawn locals and tourists who consider the mall a local highlight.
The first three luxury retailers opened in South Coast Plaza in the mid-1970s; the mall’s current tenants include designer brands such as Giorgio Armani, Versace and Christian Louboutin. Today, roughly one-third of South Coast Plaza’s stores are high-end brands, many of which have chosen the retail center as their only location in Orange County. Some have passed up glitzy shopping areas, such as one on Beverly Hills’ Rodeo Drive, to open their only Southern California location in Costa Mesa.
“South Coast Plaza has been known since the beginning as a high-quality property with strong attention to details and finishing touches in the building, landscaping and tenant mix. This has brought many brands here,” says Downing. “[South Coast Plaza’s] collection of retail and its strong focus on customer service and amenities set it apart from other malls. Because it’s family-owned, it’s not a cookie-cutter operation.”
South Coast Plaza has consistently attracted luxury and specialty retailers from around the world and has always offered a unique mix of stores. When the shopping center opened in 1967, it had 70 stores; that number has now reached 250, with 22 million yearly visitors. The center’s first expansion in 1973 added 60 more stores, and in 1978, Nordstrom opened its first store outside of the Pacific Northwest. SCP is still experiencing an upward growth pattern: This year, it has added 18 new stores and completely remodeled 17 existing ones, allowing retailers to move to larger locations and others to bring a fresh look to the mall. In addition, South Coast Plaza has already signed two new retailers for 2013. southcoastplaza.com