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SCT

First-time exhibitors drive the biggest RECon turnout since Great Recession

May 21, 2018

Some 150 companies and organizations exhibited at RECon for the first time, helping to fill the Las Vegas Convention Center with roughly 1,265 exhibitors for this year's trade show. This was up significantly from last year’s booth count of 1,145, said Timothy McGuinness, ICSC’s vice president of global trade expositions.

“The show is the strongest it’s been since the Great Recession, and, clearly, the number of participating companies is up,” McGuinness said. “Space is tight. It’s the closest we’ve ever been to sold-out, post-recession.”

Among the newbies were several retailers, including Gold’s Gym, Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen, Murphy USA and others.

Eatery chain Hurricane Grill & Wings decided to rent its first RECon booth this year to promote a fast-casual concept called Hurricane BTW (which stands for burgers, tacos and wings). The company sought leasing opportunities for the new units, which occupy about 2,000 square feet, and for the Hurricane Grill & Wings restaurants, which range from 2,000 to 6,000 square feet.

“For both formats, we are looking for end caps and free-standing spaces,” said Kevin Kruse, Hurricane’s chief development officer. The stores don’t require drive-through windows, but the company prefers patios and second-generation spaces. “Throughout the Southeast and up the Eastern Seaboard are all great places for us, but we’re in 15 states already, so we will open almost anywhere,” Kruse said. “We would like to meet any restaurateurs or folks who are looking to start work with a new franchise or add an experienced restaurant group to their portfolio, as well as any restaurant brokers who have sites that match our criteria.”

Retailer teams from several brands that share a booth under parent company Ascena Retail Group — namely Ann Taylor, Catherines, Dress Barn, Justice, Lane Bryant, Loft, Lou & Grey and Maurices — registered in the RECon directory as individual exhibitors for the first time this year.

“We’re expanding — we need to be in the show!”

One Step Retail Solutions sells retail technology such as point-of-sale equipment. The Phoenix-based company secured a booth at RECon to display its wares and to network with landlords and retail brokers who can work with its retailer customers, says spokeswoman Michelle Toyoshima. One Step operates an alliance program — a network of professionals the firm recommends as resources to its retailer clients.

Among the new service providers at RECon was ACRES Capital, a direct lender from Jericho, N.Y., that is both a first-time exhibitor and a first-time attendee. The firm specializes in short-term debt investments of between $3 million and $30 million. “We are very interested in meeting with developers, retailers, property owners and mortgage brokers from all over the country,” said Dan Greenberg, the company’s senior originations director.

Broker-developer Henry McClure recently re-formed his company, McClure Real Estate, and leased a  booth to promote his development sites and other retail real estate opportunities in his home market of Topeka, Kan. “One of my goals is to keep the city of Topeka in front of the retail real estate community as a great place to do business,” said McClure, who attended his first RECon in 1984. “Topeka is now looking at retail development as economic development, and I’m trying to push that to the forefront.”

Municipalities that joined the first-timers include the cities of Buckeye, Ariz.Claremore, Okla.; Gresham, Ore.; Norco, Calif.; and Pasco, Wash.

There were also plenty of new experiences among returning companies, like MasterCard Advisors, the professional-services arm of that credit card giant. MasterCard introduced enterprise software at RECon 2015 that enables real estate professionals to analyze the sales-based performance history of virtually any U.S. retail location. This year the company was offering 30-day free trials of a web-portal version of that tool — MasterCard Relocation Insights, which is affordable for smaller brokerages.

Subscribers can gain a year’s access to a small city or county’s sales data for as little as $1,000, or interactive mapping for as little as $750. (Mapping varies by market, so that can run as high as $10,000 per year in major metros like New York City.) “We have March data in our tool right now, and I don’t think anybody else has the kind of sales insights that we can provide,” said Tony Sanches, MasterCard’s general manager for information services. “Anybody who is dealing with site selection, property investments or property management will be interested in this.”

By Joe Gose

Contributor, Shopping Centers Today