Tim King, CPEX Real Estate’s managing partner was recently quoted in an article in Bisnow on this year’s ICSC RECon in Las Vegas, ‘Walking through the casinos each morning to get to the convention, it struck me that there’s a strong analogy to be made between the trade show and the very casinos hosting all of us—lots of money changing hands, lots of frantic activity, lots of hearts being broken, and yet an overwhelming sense of optimism in the air, no matter which corner of the convention you were in.’”
Being an ICSC rookie, the quote above by Timothy King resonated with me greatly as I took RECon in for the first time. I had attended previous conventions, even national ones, but I never experienced anything like this. Most of the conferences I went to were in the health & wellness industry and much of the representation at these events were non-profit organizations. I expected to see booths like the ones I had seen in the past, so when I walked into the South Hall (after being lost for 45 minutes) and caught my first glimpse of RECon, I was simply blown away. A man told me that most of the booths here cost more than his first house, and at first I honestly thought he was joking. Once I walked around the convention for a bit, I understood that he was not even kidding in the slightest. I felt a bit like a kid in a candy shop, walking by some of my favorite vendors that I stop by all the time on Route 9 outside Boston. It actually felt a little bit like I was just walking down Route 9 instead of driving. What blew my mind even more is that this was so normal to everyone else. I was absolutely entranced, and everyone else was going about their day to day business, making deals, attending meetings, meeting new faces. Even by Wednesday when it was time for me to leave, I don’t think the novelty had worn off yet.
On the other hand, this was QuantumListing CEO and Founder David Perlmutter’s 31st consecutive RECon. As a seasoned veteran, he says the only surprise each year is what the vibe of the attendees will be. Will it be upbeat and optimistic, negative or something in between? With the media full of stories about store closings and retail bankruptcies the last few years, David was delighted to see a new sense of energy and purpose among his peers. Furthermore, ICSC has taken leadership in helping guide its members toward the new reality, including health, fitness and technology exhibits, which he regretted not having enough time to check out.
During our webinar last week, we also had a chance to hear from other attendees of ICSC RECon this year.
Debra Hazel, president of Debra Hazel Communications, joined us and brought her perspective as a former ICSC employee who wrote the ICSC book on mixed-use development ten years ago. She thought that traffic was down this year, but credited this in part to the fact that the major mall companies were elsewhere at a different convention. She felt that this is something that her former employer needs to address. Despite the fact that numbers were down, Debra thought the overall mood was very good. As she said, people may have finally realized “the sky isn’t falling, the sky just has to change color.” She notes that people now understand the importance of health and fitness, food and beverage, and technology. Regarding technology, she stressed that technology is no longer an option but a must. As she said, “it’s not just robots...it’s trying to use the data to understand what’s going on so you can optimize positioning and marketing.” Over 20 years ago when Debra joined ICSC, someone joked that the organization would need to change the name to the International Council of Shopping Places rather than Shopping Centers. While this was only a joke at one point in time, she feels this may now actually be true. Thank you Debra for your insights!
Dani Watson, who serves as Director of Communications at DealPoint Merrill, told us how much she enjoyed #LetsGetSocial and the marketing brunch hosted by The Content Funnel, theBrokerList, and CRE Marketing Group. She’s been in the industry for about five years, and say she’s constantly learning at these conventions. Dani felt as though the social media wasn’t buzzing as much as it usually is. Perhaps people were too busy making deals?
Linda Day Harrison, founder of theBrokerList, said she loved meeting new people, but she couldn’t believe how exhausting it was. Echoing Dani’s thoughts, she enjoyed all of the events, except she wishes that more people could attend them. She noted that #LetsGetSmart is particularly tough in attendance due to the fact that it’s the last day of the conference. Linda suggested we could have more people on a panel in order to draw in more people.
All in the discussion agreed that more people would stay if they changed the format or attitude of the conference’s last day. David suggested there could be more speakers at the other booths on the last day to keep people around longer, or perhaps they could make a sliding registration fee scale for the convention so that people are economically incentivized to attend the last day. Debra added that this could also be solved by having an influential global figure as a closing speaker to speak on Wednesday so that people stick around. Maybe next year we'll have a former president closing, or even Prince Harry!?
As David said, “it’s a great event and any great event can be made even better... just like shopping centers are changing to reflect society, RECon needs to change to reflect the shopping center industry...our trade show needs to change to reflect who we are today.” He noted that he owes much of where he is today in his career to the industry organization. David urged people to attend if you aren’t already in order to make those in-person connections that you simply cannot do over email or phone.
We want to give a special shout out to Doug Balduini, Executive Vice President of Evergreen Commercial Real Estate, and Rick Recckio, of Reckkio Real Estate & Development, who are both brokers and QuantumListing user who spent time in our booth. Thank you, Doug and Rick, for continuing to advocate for QuantumListing. Stay tuned for a special blog post featuring Doug as a QuantumLister and please check out Rick’s QuantumLister interview here!
Were you at RECon this year? Let us know your thoughts about the show in the comments.