The REAL Reason People Shop at OC Malls
Orange County isn’t just a revived retail market, experts tells us. It’s a lab in which retail space can try new store concepts because SoCal shoppers want cutting-edge experiential shopping.
Irvine Co has developed more than 35 retail properties in Orange County alone. Irvine SVP Fred Collins, center, and other speakers at Bisnow’s Orange County Retail event at the Hotel Irvine stressed that one of the key strengths of local retail properties is their owners’ willingness to see their properties evolve to meet shoppers' demand for newness. And shoppers want it all: convenience, entertainment, amenities, and--increasingly--bricks and mortar as an extension of their online shopping habits, not the other way around.
DJM Capital Partners president Lindsay Parton's portfolio includes the 1M SF mixed-use Bella Terra in Huntington Beach. He also has 1M S/F (smiles per face) as he's about to become a grandfather for the first time. The panel notes that physical shopping centers have their work cut out for them, since being online avoids unpleasant interactions with substandard customer service. Centers must offer fresh experiences and (just as importantly) get the word out through traditional market and social media.
NewMark Merrill CEO Sandy Sigal, whose company owns or manages 75 retail properties in California, Colorado and Illinois. Blending one-of-a-kind retailers into a property’s tenant mix--artisanal foods, new restaurant concepts, healthcare provides, sometimes the first physical stores of successful online retailers--is a key strategy for OC retail properties, the panelists explained. Shoppers looking for novelty is only part of the reason; another factor is major chains just aren’t growing as rapidly as before and can’t be counted on to fill as much space.
Burnham-Ward Properties partner Byron Ward, who oversaw the redevelopment of 300k SF SOCO retail property in Costa Mesa. People now come to retail properties because they like being there, and then they buy something; that’s the reverse of the way it used to be. Besides an interesting tenant mix, people come for amenities large and small, such as first-rate food service (a big thing) and charging stations for laptops, smartphones and electronic cars (small things, but increasingly expected). Another example: Some properties are beginning to allow people to bring their dogs.
Allen Matkins senior counsel Britney Willhite, who moderated. People aren’t going to gather unless they know about a place, and so retail properties have to be in constant contact with their potential visitors. Traditional marketing has its place, but social media and events are equally important, our panelists explained. Monitoring and managing review sites--the Yelps, Google+s, and CitySearches--is also important for retailers and retail properties, since ratings on those sites are proven to be the difference between higher and lower revenues.