Power outage delays, but doesn’t deter Black Friday shoppers at South Coast Plaza

A power outage momentarily interrupted one of the busiest shopping days of the year at South Coast Plaza Friday.

Lights flickered, then stayed out at luxury boutiques and department stores at the Costa Mesa mall at about 2 p.m.

The crowd of Black Friday shoppers stayed calm, however — navigating the stilled escalators with guidance from mall security while shop employees emptied their sales floors and locked their doors, watching shoppers mill around outside.

Power was restored shortly before 4 p.m.

“We are thankful to Southern California Edison for their speedy and efficient work on the issue and to the Costa Mesa Fire and Police departments for their assistance,” said South Coast Plaza spokeswoman Debra Gunn Downing.

The outage, apparently caused by a fire in an electrical vault, affected the northern half of the mall on all levels, including the Nordstrom wing. Thanks to the building’s plentiful skylights, however, it was only dim at worst in some areas, and many people stuck around to wait out the outage. Inside the Microsoft store, children amused themselves with games on laptops and tablets that had plenty of battery life.

A power outage at South Coast Plaza left some storefronts darkened Friday afternoon.
A power outage at South Coast Plaza left some storefronts darkened Friday afternoon.
(Hillary Davis)

Semi Tan came to South Coast Plaza from Diamond Bar to secure her annual haul of candy from Sugarfina for family and friends.

She was one of the lucky shoppers. Sugarfina is in the southern half of the mall so nothing kept her from getting eight tote-sized bags of the artisan sweets — including a grip of caffeinated gummy bears in iced vanilla latte flavor — which a store clerk helped her carry out to the curb.

“Every year, I have to do it,” she said.

Sam Saiel of Irvine waited patiently with his wife Rahil and 4-year-old daughter at Santa’s village for the power to return. They had already hit up Bloomingdale’s, Macy’s and Zara but were waiting for the lights to turn on again at Gap. Saiel said he’s more of a Cyber Monday shopper but his wife, who he cheerfully called “my boss,” wanted to shop for gifts.

The day started out quieter at Huntington Beach’s Pacific City, where early morning rains left puddles scattered about the open-air mall.

Kevin Justen held onto his daughter Marissa’s bags as she ducked into H&M for more shopping.

Justen, who lives in Huntington, also prefers to shop online, but he came to Pacific City for Philz Coffee — which Marissa, a second-year medical student at Yale University, can’t get in Connecticut.

Glitches like chilly rain or a power outage aside, retailers and observers are bullish overall for the holiday shopping season.

Younger adults are migrating more toward online shopping, prompting an expected 14% increase in e-commerce compared to last year’s fourth quarter and making Cyber Monday “even stronger than Black Friday,” predicted Chapman University economics professor Raymond Sfeir.

“Young people like to order things when they’re at home ... and stores, more and more of them, are offering things online,” Sfeir said.

South Coast Plaza, though, touts in-person experiences that can’t be replicated online.

The center calls Black Friday “Fabulous Friday” and Gunn Downing listed live experiences shoppers have access to — like three giant Christmas trees, including the one ceremoniously lit every year, an expansive alpine village set for Santa Claus and four pop-up boutiques just for the season. The mall also is hosting a new interactive art installation by painter and sculptor Lara Schnitger called “Now or Never” — a 78-foot-wide sequin tapestry wall that features a depiction of climate activist Greta Thunberg.

“Our business has been very strong this year, so we’re expecting that to continue into the fourth quarter,” Gunn Downing said. “We saw a substantial increase in foot traffic because of that and the rain earlier [Friday]. Some of our boutiques had lines out the door by noon.”

Regardless of when and where you go shopping for the holidays, here are some safety and security tips, courtesy of the Newport Beach Police Department:

  • Never leave your valuables unattended.
  • Wait until asked before taking out your credit card. An enterprising thief would love to shoulder surf to get your account information.
  • Tell a security guard or store employee if you see an unattended bag or package.
  • Carry a purse with a zipper. Deter pickpockets by carrying your purse close to your body and keeping it closed.
  • If you carry a wallet, keep it in an inner coat pocket or front pants pocket.
  • Do not buy more than you can carry. Plan ahead by taking a friend with you or ask a store employee to help you carry your packages to the car.
  • Have your keys in hand when approaching your vehicle. Check the back seat and around the car before getting in.
  • Do not leave packages visible in your car windows. Lock them in the trunk or, if possible, take them directly home.
  • Once you get home, do not park your car outside your home with shopping bags left inside.
  • If you are shopping with children, make a plan in case you are separated from each other and select a central meeting place. Teach them to know they can ask mall personnel or store security employees if they need help.
  • Keep a current photo of your child in your phone.

City News Service and Daily Pilot staff writer Luke Money contributed to this report.

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6:23 p.m. Nov. 29, 2019: This article was originally published at 2:59 p.m. and has been updated with additional information.