David Grant announced his departure as general manager of OC’s largest shopping center, South Coast Plaza, earlier this month. Tucked away in that announcement of his retirement at the end of this year was a line from the center about how “he worked over the past four decades to seamlessly integrate rapidly accelerating technology” into South Coast’s daily operations.
It was so seamless one would never know it, since South Coast’s image has always traded on the brick-and-mortar experience of the shopping center, with a focus on exclusive retail and dining experiences, rather than the use of robotic guides, augmented reality or other tech gadgets.
The numbers under Grant’s leadership say plenty, or other tech gadgets.
South Coast retained its long-standing No. 1 spot on the Business Journal’s list of the largest shopping centers in OC once again this year, with taxable sales of $1.6 billion for the 12 months ended June 30. That equates to nearly $635 in taxable sales per square foot at the center.
Much of that long-standing position is based on more than digital and e-commerce. Grant, a 44-year veteran at South Coast, was named to the general manager position in 1995. From that year on, he shepherded the center through dramatic shifts in retail and how consumers shop, in addition to major changes at South Coast itself. The latter included the center’s push to market itself to the international traveler, making it more than just a regional mall.
Grant and his wife are also merchants in their own right, as owners of Bart’s Books in the Ventura County town of Ojai, which has garnered plenty of press as the world’s largest outdoor bookstore carrying a selection of mostly second-hand books.