I just got back from the International Council of Shopping Centers’ (ICSC) 2015 RECon Convention in Las Vegas, and I came away feeling as good as I have about the state of the industry in some time (and it wasn’t just the weather, which was delightfully on the cool side). Judging by the buzz on the floor at the convention center, the action was definitely heating up. My sense from talking to colleagues and clients is that developers left the conference with a decidedly positive outlook. I heard from more than a few folks that they were having great meetings—meaning that the retailers were serious about getting deals done, and that more than the usual number of handshake deals were completed—so for this week’s Retail Rap, I wanted to discuss my thoughts on this years ICSC.
While it’s not the first time I’ve used these words, it was clearer than ever before that the hot topic of the conference this year was mixed use. Large numbers of major retail developers are considering either being part of a larger mixed-use development or have taken substantive steps toward adding additional uses such as office, residential, hotel or medical to their own projects. I’m not entirely certain why we seem to have reached a tipping point where mixed-use has moved from the category of “daunting” to “appealing”, but I suspect that there are many causes. Another oddity I noticed at this year’s conference was that while Monday’s traffic at the event was outstanding, Tuesday’s was surprisingly light. While activity always tends to wane somewhat as the conference goes on, the drop-off seemed significantly more noticeable to me than in past years. I was also encouraged to see the beginnings of an infusion of youth into the business—and some small but encouraging signs of racial and ethnic diversity. The difference is small, but noticeable in an industry that has been so comprehensively dominated by an older generation of mostly white men for such a long time. It’s a welcome step in the right direction.
Overall, I left ICSC knowing that this was one of the more positive and productive events in quite some time. After reading my thoughts on ICSC in this week’s Retail Rap, I’d love to hear the thoughts and impressions from my fellow attendees. Were you in Vegas this year? If so, did you have some takeaways?