Shopping Center Business

MAY 2015

Shopping Center Business is the leading monthly business magazine for the retail real estate industry.

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244 • SHOPPING CENTER BUSINESS • MAY 2015 ter will total over 850,000 square feet of retail, providing the most complete shop- ping experience in southern Puerto Rico. In addition, over the last four years, PLA Holdings, Inc. has developed a periphery area that increases the regional draw and provides a more complete customer expe- rience, adding a 10-screen theater, and the market's only Romano's Macaroni Grill and P.F. Chang's, and Sports Authority. Plaza Las Americas, with three levels of the best local merchants and the most recognized retail names in the industry, is the most successful shopping center in the Caribbean. Plaza, as it is known and ac- knowledged in the market, has expanded four times and consistently upgrades the physical property and the mix of stores, regularly bringing new concepts to Puerto Rico as well as encouraging homegrown entrepreneurs to build their businesses in this prime location. Anchored by Macy's, JC Penney, Sears and a separate Sears Brand Central, Plaza is home to over 300 retailers and services, plus a 150,000 square foot, class-A medical, business and government services office tower, only ac- cessible from inside the center. According to recent research, Plaza's market consists of 1.6 million people, nearly half the island's population. How- ever, with the selection of stores found at Plaza, the center draw extends even further at key shopping periods: not only throughout Puerto Rico, but also the nearby islands whose residents use Puerto Rico for shopping, medical needs and entertainment venues. Twenty-five million customers annually from through- out Puerto Rico and the Caribbean, plus mainland tourists, visitors from around the world, and thousands of returning Puerto Rican-born U.S. residents, regu- larly fill the abundant parking spaces and utilize the five valet stations. The perma- nent taxi stand at Plaza's main entrance, second in size to only the San Juan airport stand, makes it easy for tourists going to or from the cruise ships, nearby hotels or the airport to put a stop at Plaza in their itinerary. The 9,000 employees of Plaza often re- fer to it as a "city within the city," verifying the brand statement "The Center of it All" (El Centro de Todo), which has been a business strategy from opening day. The largest, most complete selection of stores on the island is at Plaza. However, the strategy is to provide a steady stream of traffic by meeting customer needs at mul- tiple levels. For example, 23 per- cent of all visitors indicate that Plaza is their primary form of entertain- ment; the center houses a 13-screen theater and 44 eat- eries ranging from snacks to full ser- vice restaurants like Cheesecake Factory and P.F. Chang's, plus numerous mall- filling shows and exhibits through- out the year. In addition, Plaza has five banks, ten cell phone outlets, a Walgreen's drug store, a U.S. Post Office, and a pass- port office, and as of last year, a Sports Authority. In parking-starved Puerto Rico, Plaza is a great place to multi-task. Adding to that, as a key player in Puerto Rico's econo- my and the community, Plaza includes a designated area for a group of the best local artists and artisans displaying and selling their creations. Plus, with today's health-conscious customers, Plaza in- cludes a Farmers Market held four days each week with Island-grown fresh fruits, vegetables and natural-ingredient beauty products sold from stands of local farmer and entrepreneurs. "We want our customers to come to Plaza Las Americas whether they are shopping for this week's fashion item, par- ticipating in our mall exercise and walking program or simply meeting friends for a cup of coffee," says Iris Ayala, marketing director for the center. "We want to be the habit they never want to break." With the intent of drawing additional traffic and keeping it in the area, PLA Holdings has consolidated other key re- tailing and services in developments sur- rounding the center. Periphery develop- ments totaling over 350,000 square feet contain furniture, toys, electronics and a mass merchant, among other uses. The future holds additional, well-timed de- velopment in the adjacent Las Americas Gallery, beginning with the development of a new hotel to service the steady traf- fic for the financial district, the adjacent multi-sports venue, the medical offices in the Torre de Plaza and nearby Coliseum. This may be a time of growing Internet sales, but Plaza Las Americas and Plaza Del Caribe have established themselves as a part of the everyday lives of their very social customers. With their com- bined Facebook followers over 650,000, it is clear that people want to know what goes on at the two Plazas. Susana Santiago, the marketing director for Plaza Del Caribe says, "At a time when many developers have dropped funding for marketing, we believe that the verifi- able extra traffic and publicity we are able to generate at key times for our merchants is important to their success. We live on an island where people are always look- ing for new fun things to do, and where Plaza Las Americas is one of the more popular places to be in Puerto Rico around the holidays.

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