$208K Experiential Shopping Packages, Under-the-Radar Boutiques Lure International Visitors to L.A.

Courtesy of South Coast Plaza.

"Unique experiences, both in the center and within the boutiques, are no longer optional — they're vital in order to thrive," says South Coast Plaza spokesperson Debra Gunn Downing, while personal shoppers focus on off-the-grid stores.

In the digital age, when wealthy shoppers can tap into an ever-advancing fashion marketplace with a few quick clicks, luxury retailers and personal shoppers have had to up the stakes to compete. South Coast Plaza in Costa Mesa — a prime Orange County destination beyond Beverly Hills for upscale international tourists from the Gulf and China, whose ranks have declined in 2019 — is leading the way by building an array of hyper-specialized merchandise and experiences, while personal shoppers Nicole Pollard Bayme and Joe Katz increasingly take clients to off-the-grid boutiques.

South Coast Plaza spokesperson Debra Gunn Downing emphasizes how critical it is to cater to the more discerning international shopper. "Unique experiences, both in the center and within the boutiques, are no longer optional — they're vital in order to thrive," she says. "In early fall, we will be the first luxury shopping center in the U.S. to offer a comprehensive selection of boutiques that have the capability to make a fashion item much more personal, through monogramming, hand-painting, bespoke and made-to-order services."

The new "By Design" program (a digital guide to personalized services and merchandise from brands such as Berluti, Louis Vuitton, Canali, Ermendgildo Zegna, Fendi and Jimmy Choo) is set to launch in September at South Coast Plaza.

Pollard Bayme agrees that personalized merchandise is a large draw for this clientele: "When you're at the point where you can have anything money can buy, the next step is making it your own," she says.

Known for its high-caliber concierge and shopping services, South Coast Plaza has upped the ante this summer with new $208,000 experiential shopping, dining and travel packages for eight people in conjunction with Westin South Coast Plaza, Antica Napa Valley and Stag's Leap Wine Cellars. On the itinerary are caviar, champagne and surprise gifts; a dedicated concierge and butler around the clock; a personal stylist to assist with a $25,000 per couple shopping spree; and private jet service to Napa Valley for an overnight wine country adventure. (For more information, email UltimatePackageSCP@westin.com or call 714-662-6670).

Besides this "one-of-a-kind experience for the modern connoisseur," according to a press statement, South Coast Plaza continues its focus on exclusive retailers, including the sole Louis Vuitton Atelier in the U.S. and the recently opened first West Coast locations for Parisian luxury handbag brand Moynat and Australian fashion label Camilla.

"Pop-ups such as the immersive KKW Beauty by Kim Kardashian and the first-ever Beautytap and Hammitt brick-and-mortar stores, bring excitement, the element of discovery and a sense of urgency — a shop-them-before-they're gone vibe," adds Gunn Downing.

Some off-the-radar destinations for Katz's global clients include streetwear shops Supreme on Fairfax, and Bape Shop and John Elliott on Melrose Avenue ("because people love that California aesthetic"), as well as specialty boutiques Just One Eye in Hollywood and Maxfield in WeHo.

Pollard Bayme says that fresh, off-the-radar boutiques such as Capitol, the North Carolina-based shop that recently opened an outpost at Brentwood Country Mart, are a hit with her international clients. Other hot spots include Dover Street Market in downtown L.A. and skate-surf shop RipnDip on North Fairfax Ave.

"Our Chinese clients, especially the men, have a lot of fun dressing in the local skate-surf culture," she said. "And our Chinese shoppers are also enjoying pre-ordering from Paris, buying things before they hit the stores, before the trends happen, which is something I haven't seen in the past. They are wearing less label and being more creative."