South Coast Plaza opens in-person shopping by appointment in a parking garage
Past an ivy partition, a concierge greets a guest with bottled water.
As staff bustles back and forth asking customers for their names to confirm their appointments, partitions for 14 newly built suites — each labeled with a different plant, such as camellia, jasmine and peony — are pulled backward to reveal the interior, equipped with a fitting room and minor furnishings for displays.
One guest examines a clothing rack while others wait in chairs for their boutique associate to escort them to their suite.
On Friday, Costa Mesa’s South Coast Plaza officially opened “the Pavilion” in its northern parking structure, nearest to Bristol Street and Nordstrom’s, in an effort to provide an in-person shopping experience safely during the coronavirus outbreak.
About 100 of South Coast Plaza’s more than 250 boutiques are participating, including brands such as Omega, Prada and Versace. And in Orange County, people find ways to shop for high-end products.
A serious breakdown in the electronic collection of coronavirus testing data has raised questions about the numbers’ accuracy as the case count and death toll increases.
The Pavilion is accessible by appointment only, and customers are asked to call or email participating boutiques ahead of arrival to discuss what they would like to see, try on or purchase, and what times work best for clients and staff.
After booking an appointment, customers arrive at the scheduled date and time at the North parking structure and are asked to provide their name and the details of their appointment.
Boutique associates then escort them to one of the suites, where they’re able to try on and purchase merchandise.
Masks are required, and hand sanitizer stations are scattered throughout the area. Maintenance staff are also present to sanitize all suites before and after use. Social distancing measures are also in place, according to a statement by South Coast Plaza.
“We wanted to give our guests a way to shop in person safely from our boutiques when we had to temporarily close to comply with Gov. [Gavin] Newsom’s July 13 order,” said Debra Gunn Downing, spokeswoman for South Coast Plaza.
“The Pavilion and its suites are designed for guests who want to try on, touch, feel and smell merchandise before buying and want the immediate gratification of taking home their purchase,” Downing said. “These can’t be done when browsing and shopping online. The experience aspect is important for these shoppers.”
The Pavilion is in addition to South Coast Plaza’s SCP 2 Go program, a curbside pickup program that launched in May with 80 stores and restaurants participating at the time. It now includes more than 120.
Aliso Viejo resident Kristi Conlon said she heard about the Pavilion through a sales associate with Yves Saint Laurent.
“I think [the Pavilion]'s nice. It actually just dawned on me that we’re still in a parking structure,” Conlon said. “It’s the best they can do under the circumstances, so it’s nice.”
Conlon said she felt making an appointment was easy, adding that she had texted one of the sales associates and was sent pictures of things that she was interested in. She said she had seen something that she liked and that her appointment Friday was to select which one she wanted to purchase in person and leave.
Lauri Smith, wearing a cheetah-print mask, was looking at purses from Louis Vuitton, wanting to exchange an anniversary present that her husband, Yale, bought her because she already had it.
“They mailed [the purse] to me because the store’s closed, but then they set [the Pavilion] up and we went, ‘Let’s just drive down and see other purses,’” Smith said.
She and her husband drove 64 miles to South Coast Plaza from Murrieta.
“It was easy. Louis Vuitton knows how to do it. I think South Coast Plaza knows how to do it. They want to get customers, so they made it as convenient as they could under the circumstances, but it’s still overkill in my opinion,” Smith said.
Yale Smith said the process was convenient if the shopper knew what they wanted, but that it was hard to do window shopping.
"[Our consultant] was sending us pictures, so we knew what we were ... it was just coming here to exchange, it was easy,” he said. “But you can’t really shop this way.”
Nguyen writes for Times Community News.
The view from Sacramento
For reporting and exclusive analysis from bureau chief John Myers, get our California Politics newsletter.
You may occasionally receive promotional content from the Los Angeles Times.