NYC show attendance jumps 9.5 percent

Publish Date: December 09, 2013

Topics: danny meyer, icsc, michael p. kercheval

Attendance at this year’s New York National Conference and Deal Making is up 9.5percent over last year, with some 7,600 people in attendance.And that bodes well for next year, pointed out Michael P. Kercheval, president and CEO, because the New York Conference always serves as a bellwether for the industry. When attendance is up, the industry grows the following year. When it’s down, a decline has always followed.

Good service is essential to anyone harboring ambitions of growth, says New York restaurateur Danny Meyer, who addressed the conference when it opened today. In an environment becoming increasingly competitive for retailers, hospitality is more important than ever, he said. Meyer is CEO of Union Square Hospitality Group, which owns such renowned restaurants as Gramercy Tavern and Union Square Café, as well as the fast-casual burger chain Shake Shack.

“Go make your transactions, but make them hospitable,” he told the audience.

Technology, Meyer stressed, has made the retail and restaurant landscape tougher than it ever has been before, and not just because of online-only giants like Amazon.coms. With the growth of social media sites, any business owner can easily copy another’s products (or recipes) over the Internet.

“No one needs us and us alone because we do what we do really well,” he said, adding that this applies equally to shopping center design. “Within two seconds it will be copied if it’s a new idea.”

The trick is creating an experience that can’t be duplicated, whether that is in a restaurant or a mall. The experiential edge is what will set apart winners from losers in the future retail landscape. Meyer’s restaurants are renowned for top notch food and professional servers that put their clients at ease. “What we all have to be focused on is not the transaction, but: How does this feel?” he explained. “People are looking for experiences that make them feel good.”

Retailers Meyer says he admires for their quality and service include Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods, The Container Store and REI.

Meyer provided some insights into his business. Originally he said he never considered going into shopping centers, but has done so with some of his Shake Shacks, of which there are currently 38 domestically and internationally. “These are places where people wanted to be with people, and that has not changed today,” Meyer said, comparing shopping centers to museums, ice-skating rinks and European piazzas.

Shake Shack, which started as a shack in Manhattan’s Madison Park in 2004, now has overseas restaurants in Dubai, Abu Dhabi, London and Istanbul. A restaurant will open in Moscow next month.

But don’t expect it to be as ubiquitous as Starbucks, he warned: “We’re not interested in having a situation where we have over-saturated the market.”

Overseas markets offer huge possibilities, said Kercheval, noting that there are 221 square meters of retail per 100 people in the United States, he said, compared to 0.5 square meters in China. “Today retailers have more options than ever before when it comes to brand-building possibilities,” Kercheval said, pointing out that chains are looking nationally, globally and through several channels to sell their products.

David LaRue, ICSC’s chairman and the president and CEO of Cleveland-based Forest City Enterprises, painted an optimistic picture of the industry during his Outlook For Retail Real Estate presentation. Consumer confidence, spending and unemployment figures are all moving in a positive direction for businesses, despite the political uncertainty in Washington, he said.

LaRue also said that the layouts of shopping centers are changing, with the additions of gyms, fresh-food markets and dining. Echoing Meyer, he said the shopping centers that thrive in the future will be largely experiential. “The challenge is to create a sense of place,” LaRue said. “This is something we can look at as an opportunity.”


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