ICSC RECon 2017
The Real Estate Convention, RECon, in Las Vegas last month was a tremendous success. There were a record numbers of attendees (37,000+), dynamic speakers including tennis star Serena Williams, Shark Tank’s Barbara Corcoran & Apple’s Steve Wozniak and over 1,200 exhibitors. I walked 11 miles one day, which was just going back and forth between exhibitors and meetings in different wings of the 800,000 square foot convention center.
One of the best parts about RECon is the ability to have face to face meetings with clients and customers from across the nation that I normally only get to phone, text or email. It’s amazing how a 15-minute meeting in front of someone can accomplish so much more than days and weeks of emails. I met with numerous hotels, restaurants, retailers and banks looking to either enter our market, move to a better location within the market or sell off excess real estate. I was able to meet with the owner of a prime re-development location and discuss options for selling the property to a developer and leasing back a small part of a new building. Within a few hours, I had also spoken to two other retailers that would like to lease space in a new building on this site when it is redeveloped. There were numerous developers at the show and by the second day I had spoken with two that expressed interest in acquiring the property to redevelop it for the three tenants I had lined up. The project might take a year to put together, but the excitement of meeting with all the players that could participate and make this a reality, in just two days, was a great inspiration.
I am always amazed at the number of people I do business with who also attend this conference. After I return home, I usually find out about a few more who were there that I didn’t know about. There is so much valuable information that everyone starts speaking about something they learned at the show and the response if often, ‘I was there too, and here’s what I learned….’ Overall the industry was very positive and optimistic about the future of retail development. There were some murmurings about the closing of big box stores across the country and whether this was a sign we are over-retailed. While this had a few retailers nervous, I would say the overall sentiment was that retail has always been dynamic and the best retailers will adapt and flourish. Right now, the retailers with a strong on-line presence mixed with good retail exposure are doing fantastic and the ones who concentrate on one area without the other are struggling. Apple is good example since opening retail stores has helped propel them to even greater success than they had only being available through resellers and the internet.
Another interesting idea I heard was that retail was not over-built, but under-demolished. The idea is that we do have too much retail, but the excess is in older centers and buildings that don’t fit the needs of today’s consumers and tenants. I thought this was particularly interesting as it relates to our area, because I have noticed that many of the retailers looking at northern Michigan cannot find sites that meet their criteria. It is not that we don’t have retail space available, but what is available is older and not what they are looking for. If some of the older buildings get demolished and rebuilt, I think we would be able to attract more successful retailers to the area and this idea was supported by the amount of interest I had in my meetings regarding the redevelopment site.
For those of you wondering about my personal time in Vegas, I did get to play a little poker, but pocket aces wiped me out each time. I thought my luck might be better at RECon as one of the exhibiters gave away a Tesla with $50,000 cash (that was sitting on the dashboard of the car the whole show). Unfortunately, that wasn’t going to be my big win either, but the person who won it was standing right next to me when they called his name and that was very exciting. I guess I’ll just have to be satisfied with the great luck I had with the people I met and forgo my next career as a professional gambler.