“Ten Things You Need to Know about Last Week’s 2011 ICSC RECon Convention:”

Written by: Carmen R. Austin, MBA, CCIM, Associate Broker for Saurage Rotenberg Commercial Real Estate

Carmen R. Austin, MBA, CCIM retail specialist has just returned from a very optimistic and productive 2011 ICSC RECON convention held last week in Las Vegas, NV. It was her 7th year to be in attendance at the world’s largest national retail real estate convention.

Upon returning from this year’s annual ICSC event, in which I was armed of course with my new I pad II, four pairs of Tory Burch flats, and my CVS-special foot-soak, I took it upon myself to do a quick follow-up with a few takeaways and trends that I gathered from this years convention:

1. Optimism: With over 32,000 people in attendance and over 1,000 exhibitors, this year’s event was a touted success with a much more exciting and positive atmosphere and sense that deals were getting done as compared to the last two years where everyone seemed to be in a holding pattern. Activity and momentum were positive and in full-force and everyone seemed to working it in true recovery mode.

2. Recovery: Good news spread as it seems retailers, malls, and shopping centers that were hit hard by the recession have now largely stabilized. National and regional retailers seem to be in full-on expansion mode predicting multiple new store openings and expansions across the states and worldwide as opposed to the magnitude of closures and downsizes so common in years’ past.

3. Social Media: This year social media was huge. With ICSC providing and promoting via a Twitter account, Face book, and Linked In pages a medium for attendees to keep in touch and stay connected, networking was a key component to this year’s success. Event promoters even created a RECon app for the multiple smart-phones and I pad users. Social media played an important role in meetings this year. ICSC presented its new Social Media Pavilion which provided a meeting place for synced in and connected social media users, as well as, hourly presentations on how to utilize Twitter and Face book and Linked In to maximize networking activities and promote business in the retail commercial real estate market. Tablets and QR codes were everywhere.

4. Technology: I pads and tablets were all over the place this year. Say good bye to the brief case and forget the flyers, pamphlets, and binders. Everyone who was anyone had all of their projects, presentations, and sites on neat and tidy light-weight I pads and Blackberry Playbooks which teaming with Wi-Fi, eliminated clutter while providing a paper-free and streamlined presentation that could in turn be e-mailed to the prospect, client or partner.

5. Outlet Malls: One burgeoning sector seemed to be the continued growth and success of outlet malls. Obviously, because of the recent economic downturn the average consumer has placed a high level of importance on “value”, which many experts believe will remain a sustainable perception. Therefore, there has been a recent emergence in success for outlet malls and outlet mall development. Outlets seem to be the front-runners with break out success over the past few years due to their strong occupancies and high sales per square foot. It has been stressed by insiders though that these aren’t just developments or retailers that you slap the name “outlet” on and expect them to succeed; they have become their own successful niche business.

6. Parties: Whether it be the RKF party thrown Monday night poolside at the Cosmopolitan Hotel or the “classic” Hendon party at the Hard Rock bash featuring music by members of .38 Special and other classic rock bands that rounded out the convention, the multiple cocktail parties starting with the 4:30 cocktail hours on the leasing mall floor continue to prove that life is a party when commercial real estate comes to Vegas.

7. Women: It was a pleasure and delight to attend the Special Interest Group’s “Women in Commercial Real Estate: A View from the Top” hosted by Manhattan retail power broker Faith Hope Consolo and featuring wonderful insight from such female power players as Elaine Wynn of Las Vegas’ Wynn Resorts, Terri Simard Vice President at Target Corporation, Renee West President and COO of Luxor and Excalibur Hotel and Casinos, and Holly Cohen Senior Vice President of J. Crew. These strong and successful women had such insightful knowledge and inspirational advice based on their experience as successful women advancing in the realm of retail real estate and business.

8. Financing: Although financing for projects is still hard to come by and lending institutions and financial backers are still holding their money tight to their chests while navigating the heavy restrictions imposed by such legislation as the Dodd-Frank Act, it does seem that deals are getting done and trends are emerging. So despite new regulations and the looming CMBS crisis, (some) lenders are lending and deals are getting done.

9. Hot Retailers: This year the ICSC had named 4 retail chains as the “2011 Hottest Retailer Awards”. These winners included: Athleta, a woman’s sporting goods and fitness apparel retailer owned by the Gap Inc.; Smashburger, a fast casual burger chain with 100 stores nationwide and growing; ALDI, a discount grocery operator with 1100 stores in 31 states; and Fossil which has branched out with its retail stores selling eclectic handbags, clothing and watches.

10. Gambling: And very last but not least, we did have some time left over and were able to hit the tables with personal instruction on how to play by none other than one of CCIM’s finest instructors who shall remain nameless. He was able to edify us with all the ins and outs and strategies of the craps table, roulette wheel, and black jack card games, ending of course in a friendly invitation to join him for a dip in the hot tub on the rooftop of the Tropicana in which we, ahem, politely declined.

To view this week’s Featured Property click HERE.

Carmen has been a practicing commercial real estate broker since 2001. She is a graduate of the Louisiana State University (LSU) E.J. Ourso College of Business and the LSU Flores Masters of Business Administration (MBA) Program with a specialization in Entrepreneurship and Real Estate Finance.  Her experience includes past employment as Regional Director of Leasing at Commercial Properties Realty Trust the for-profit arm of the Baton Rouge Area Foundation. Carmen’s affiliations include Louisiana REALTORS®,Greater Baton Rouge Association of REALTORS® Commercial Investment DivisionInternational Council of Shopping CentersCommercial Real Estate WomenCertified Commercial Investment Member InstituteNational Association of REALTORS®, and Urban Land Institute. She is also an active volunteer on the board of directors for the Baton Rouge GalleryLSU MBA Alumni AssociationJunior Achievement of Baton Rouge, and the Junior League of Baton Rouge.  Carmen currently serves as the 2010 President of the Louisiana CCIM Chapter

Saurage Rotenberg Commercial Real Estate is a member of the Baton Rouge Area Chamber of Commerce (BRAC); the West Baton Rouge Chamber of Commerce; the Baton Rouge Growth Coalition; the Baton Rouge Better Business Bureau; the Louisiana Commercial Data Base (LACDB); and the International Council of Shopping Centers (ICSC). Several agents, on an individual basis, are members of the Society of Industrial and Office Realtors® (SIOR), the Certified Commercial Investment Member Institute (CCIM); the National Association of REALTORS® (NAR); and the Greater Baton Rouge Association of REALTORS® Commercial Investment Division (CID).