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Dec 20, 2022
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New stores, residential program, sales growth... South Coast Plaza ends 2022 on a high note

Dec 20, 2022

South Coast Plaza is ending the year on a high note with more than 25 new and redesigned stores, including a second Louis Vuitton store and a second Gucci store dedicated to luggage and men's products, an expanded and redesigned Fendi store and new boutiques for Hublot, Anine Bing, Gentle Monster, Coach and John Varvatos. Fifty five years after its opening in Orange County, the shopping center has become the mecca of luxury and shopping with over 2.2 billion of sales in 2021. Fashionnetwork.com sat down with Debra Gunn Downing, executive director marketing, to get an update on the current status and future ambitions of South Coast Plaza. 

Debra Gunn Downing, executive director marketing at South Coast Plaza

FashionNetwork.com: You're ending the year on a high note with more than 25 stores redesigned or entering the South Coast Plaza...
Debra Gunn Downing: It's been an intense year, but it's part of an overall strategy for South Coast Plaza, which includes bringing in new brands, remodeling or relocating other stores. Each brand that signs a contract with South Coast Plaza must activate a regular renovation program to keep it fresh and create excitement for our customers. Next year will bring more new developments with the opening of a new Louis Vuitton space in February, the opening of a new Dior store, and a new Van Cleef & Arpels that will move to the space Dior is in now.

FNW: Is the South Coast Plaza site expandable, and what developments can we expect for 2023?

DGD: Today, South Coast Plaza has approximately 2.8 million square feet including 250 retail and department stores such as Bloomingdale's, Nordstrom, Saks Fifth Avenue or Macy's and over 30 restaurants. In the next few years you will see the development of The Village at South Coast Plaza, a residential program that will dramatically change the landscape of the city of Santa Ana up to 1,500 residential units, and easy access to South Coast Plaza, the new Orange County Museum of Art and the Segerstrom Center for the Arts. 

Louis Vuitton men's store at South Coast Plaza

FNW: Is the South Coast Plaza concept replicable in other parts of the United States or the world?

DGD: Twenty-five years ago, when I joined the company, I asked the executives this very question. The vision of Henry Segerstrom, the founder of South Coast Plaza who said - "We have a jewel in our hands, and we will continue to polish it and make it brighter" - and that has not changed. 
FNW: What has made South Coast Plaza so successful for the past 55 years?
DGD: When South Coast Plaza was launched in 1967, the 405 Freeway had not yet reached Orange County, but the location had been chosen, close to Newport Beach and the beaches, and the opening of John Wayne Airport in 1979, quickly propelled South Coast Plaza into a must-see shopping destination. The arrival of luxury brands, from the first Courreges and Yves Saint Laurent’s stores, to the unbridled enthusiasm of today, has made our shopping center unique in the United States and the world. 

South Coast Plaza

FNW: In 2002, South Coast Plaza had 1 billion in annual sales revenue. What about 20 years later?

DGD: We ended 2021 with the highest growth ever, 2.2 billion in sales, and 2022 is also looking very good. The year 2021 also saw over 18 million visitors to our stores and restaurants. 
FNW: Did the Covid period impact South Coast Plaza?
DGD: The Covid pandemic forced us to close for five months in 2020. We redoubled our efforts to implement other strategies, worked with retailers to find solutions such as a pick-up service or appointment only service, we also created The Pavilion, a new structure opening 18 open-air suites in South Coast Plaza's North parking structure with air-conditioning, music, flower bouquets.... An era that is now happily over. 

South Coast Plaza

FNW: What is the profile South Coast Plaza visitors today?
DGD: South Coast Plaza today has a 100-mile reach, from Santa Barbara in the north to the Mexican border in the south. The demographics of our clientele is very diverse with a large clientele from the Korean, Chinese, and Vietnamese communities that have been settling in the Orange County area for years. The presence of numerous universities also attracts a strong young clientele. In recent years, our sales have significantly grown thanks to the 18-28 year old Gen Zs, who buy many luxury products. Finally, about 7% of our clientele is international, particularly from Mexico. 
FNW: How is the Segerstrom family involved in the development of South Coast Plaza today?

DGD: South Coast Plaza has been owned and operated by the Segerstrom family, who still live in Orange County, since its inception in 1967, and they are involved in every aspect of the development of the shopping center down to the smallest detail. A unique approach that has been the charm and success of the company since its creation.

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