Sheridan: “We view our market
intelligence and access as a material
value-add for our retail tenants
that other shopping-center owners
cannot offer.”

IRVINE, CA-Irvine Co.’s Retail Properties division has provided some of the most popular retail centers in the country, offering a unique blend of entertainment, shopping and dining in an inviting, lush atmosphere. recently spoke with the division’s president, Dan Sheridan, about what makes the firm so successful and the exciting developments coming down the pike for the retail sector. Your master-planned communities offer a unique opportunity for multi-location retailers. Have you developed strategies to take advantage of this? 

Sheridan: Yes, we have. We actually have a unique position. Because of the number and the types of centers we have, we can go to retailers and restaurants not currently in the market and offer them an entire Orange County strategy. It’s not unusual for us to approach a retailer or restaurateur we identify and offer them a three- to five-store or restaurant opportunity that provides them the ability to come to Orange County in a meaningful way and with scale. We can also offer our tenants a lot of market intelligence because of our office and apartment community divisions. Unlike other shopping center owners, we know who is leasing the apartments and the office space surrounding our shopping centers and that information can be very helpful in supporting the tenants in our retail centers.  We view this intelligence and access as a material value-add for our retail tenants that other shopping center owners cannot offer. How will ICRP see growth going forward in 2013? What do you see as the company’s greatest opportunity?

Sheridan: It’s hard to identify the company’s greatest opportunity, but we see growth from both development and redevelopment. We’re adding restaurant pads at Fashion Island, and we’re in the early stage of doing the same at Irvine Spectrum Center. But if I had to identify one single opportunity, I would identify the entire area surrounding the Irvine Spectrum Center. We will be expanding the Irvine Spectrum Center, and we will also be building a new neighborhood center in the area to further support the growing residential and office populations. This is a great growth area for all the company’s divisions, and the retail team will be a significant part of that growth as this area continues to evolve into the city center of Irvine. What is ICRP looking to accomplish at the upcoming ICSC New York Idea Exchange?

Sheridan: What we hope to accomplish is probably not that unique from most retail-center owners.  We want to maintain and build on our relationships with retailers and restaurateurs. Additionally, New York is a great venue for learning about new concepts. Last, we want to make sure that the retail community fully understands and appreciates everything that the Irvine Co. has to offer, not only as a retail partner but as a long-term master-planning company. Outside of the California-based retailers, I don’t think there is widespread understanding of the strength of our core market and how we are uniquely positioned to provide the best opportunity for retailers and restaurateurs to enter the market and succeed. Shoppers are seeking value today, yet luxury retail is faring well. How is this all playing out across your portfolio, which has both?

Sheridan: It’s exactly right—both are doing well and work together to complement each other.  One great example of this is the partnership between Target and Neiman Marcus, which has produced a Target line for the Neiman Marcus customer. The customer wants both, so we’re listening and making sure we provide them with both—items for their daily needs as well as higher-end aspirational goods. The idea that luxury and value cannot coexist is yesterday’s news. We see it all the time within our portfolio. We experience active cross-shopping among the product types. Our goal is to stay ahead of that trend. What concepts/retailers do you think are bringing some “excitement” to retail today?

Sheridan: I would say conceptually, you are definitely seeing an emphasis on dining and entertainment as a way for retail-center owners to activate their centers. We have focused tremendously on the overall shopping experience and work hard to have centers that are much more than simply boxes with stores, but are places that people want to come back to often and spend time. For us, dining and entertainment is a big part of that overall experience, but so, too, is the physical make-up of the center. All of our centers have areas that we call “people places,” where people can sit down and eat, go online or simply take a break. Today dining is entertainment. We recently brought three new restaurant concepts to Orange County:  CUCINA Enoteca opened at Irvine Spectrum; Lark Creek and Fig & Olive will open soon at Fashion Island. These are all very unique chef-driven concepts that provide a great experience. We also opened just last month a Whole Foods market at Fashion Island—a very unique use for a regional center but one that adds to the energy and vitality of the center. Whole Foods did a great job of creating a one-of-a-kind market and food experience. With the holiday season approaching, what do you anticipate and what plans are in place to get shoppers’ attention?

Sheridan: We expect to see some good sales increases compared to last year. We’re seeing a positive sales trend to date, and we anticipate that will continue through the holidays. At our regional centers we will for the first time be promoting Black Friday. At Irvine Spectrum Center, our outdoor ice rink will return, drawing more than 25,000 visitors over the holiday season. Irvine Spectrum will open at midnight, and customers can enjoy free ice skating under our 108-ft. giant Ferris wheel, free valet and a free carousel ride. At Fashion Island, we will host our annual tree lighting with Disneyland Resort, making the center the only location in Southern California to host an event with Disney characters outside of the park.  Our goal is to host activities that will not only draw customers but create a memorable experience.