Orange County Business Journal

Return of the Shopper

Biggest Retail Centers Post 5.5% Sales Increase Kari Hamanaka Sunday, December 11, 2011
South Coast Plaza: sales up 12.1% to $1.3 billion, holiday outlook strong

South Coast Plaza: sales up 12.1% to $1.3 billion, holiday outlook strong

Retail spending in Orange County came back in a big way this year.

Taxable sales from the 26 largest shopping centers here were up 5.5% for the 12 months through June to $6.3 billion, according to this week’s Business Journal list.

That continues a recovery trend that began last year when local shopping centers’ taxable sales increased 1% to $6.1 billion. The modest uptick was a welcome change from the 7% drop in taxable sales during the 12 months through June 2009.

A number of shopping centers reinvented themselves to reclaim sales lost during the recession with new tenants, renovations and other efforts to bring shoppers back.

Anecdotal and official data suggest momentum continues. State officials recently reported that retail sales throughout California rose 8% in the third quarter compared with a year ago. Locally this year’s Black Friday, which kicks off the year-end holiday shopping season, also indicate gains.

Earlier store openings this Black Friday seem to have worked here.

No. 3 Brea Mall, owned by Indianapolis-based Simon Property Group Inc., saw more foot traffic than a year ago on Black Friday. A lot of that was due to anchor tenant Macy’s opening earlier at midnight, said Marketing Director Anna Cotter.

New to this year’s Black Friday at Brea was a larger contingent of 18-year-olds on up to college-age shoppers. Some shopped, while others hung out, Cotter said.

Other mall operators also noted a positive effect from the earlier store openings.

The Target at No. 5 Irvine Spectrum Center, owned by Newport Beach-based Irvine Company, had nearly 600 customers waiting in line.

Irvine Co.’s Fashion Island (No. 2) in New-port Beach and Market Place (No. 4) in Tustin and Irvine also had anchors such as Macy’s and Best Buy open up to long lines at midnight.

“We feel like it’s off to a strong beginning, but we’re still cautiously optimistic because you don’t know what’s going to happen,” said Stacie Ellis, senior director of marketing for the Irvine Co.’s retail portfolio.

Whether the sales momentum reflected on this year’s list pushes into next year remains to be seen.

New Approaches

Center owners continue to sign new lease deals or deploy new marketing to drive foot traffic—tactics that helped drive sales for the June period reflected on this year’s list.

South Coast Plaza, Orange County’s largest shopping center by taxable sales and square footage, saw sales up 12.1% to $1.3 billion.

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