Published on: March 24, 2017by Kevin Coupe
An MNB reader alerted me to an article in Women's Wear Daily about South Coast Plaza, an Orange County, California, mall that is celebrating a half-century in business.
At a time when many malls around the country are in trouble, hurt by heightened competition from both other bricks-and-mortar stores and online retailers, family-owned South Coast Plaza is having "its best year to date in terms of sales — with a vacancy level hovering close to zero and sales for this year projected to be close to $2 billion."
It is, the story suggests, "a testament to what has been a consistent approach managing a retail property: Stock it with the upper echelon of brands, keep it well maintained and the shoppers will come."
To be clear, South Coast is an upscale mall, and while the basic tenets may be simple, putting them into practice is anything but. The story notes that rather than wait for retailers to come to them, management actually goes out and looks for new boutiques and brands that it can bring in, often on an exclusive basis. And they try not to think of themselves as a mall (which, management says, implies sameness), but rather as Orange County's downtown, which changes the mindset; the goal is not just to fill square footage, but to create a welcoming community of retailers with a differential and differentiating advantage.
And while South Coast's ability to be distinctive may be easier because of where it is positioned demographically, the lesson, I think, is a good one for every retailer.
It is critical to find places to be unique and, when possible, exclusive, in the products and services offered to consumers. It is critical to go out and actively seek these opportunities, and not just wait for ideas to come to you. And I love the idea that a mall should be more than just a collection of stores, but rather a welcoming community of retailers; that's not just a semantic difference. And I think supermarkets, for example, might be well-served if they viewed their spaces not as just a collection of other companies' brands, but rather as a holistic experience built around a community of food ... providing not just a source of products, but a resource for information.
It won't be for everyone. But it could be an Eye-Opener.
- KC's View: