Exhibitors, attendees anticipate a busy RECon 2013

Publish Date: May 14, 2013

Topics: cbl, excess space retail services, icsc, jll, lee & associates, nationwide realty, passco, recon, washington d.c., westwood, x team international

Attendees and exhibitors are expecting to close a lot of deals at RECon 2013 in Las Vegas next week.

“We are looking forward to a very productive RECon,” Stephen Lebovitz, president and CEO of mall owner CBL & Associates Properties, said on his firm’s first-quarter earnings call. The firm will be lining up new tenants for the new developments and expansions of existing properties it is undertaking this year. One is a 46,000-square-foot addition to its highly productive Cross Creek Mall in Fayetteville, N.C. CBL is also seeking factory outlet tenants for its fifth outlet center development venture with partner Horizon Group Properties, Lebovitz said. “We will be free-leasing these projects in Las Vegas,” he said.

The appointment calendars of decision makers from JLL are packed, says Greg Maloney, president and CEO of JLL Americas Retail. “Things are looking up,” said Maloney. “The lack of new construction has helped vacancy reach its lowest point in the last three years, which is helping push rents slightly upwards.”

New store openings are likely to reach a four-year high this year, Maloney predicts. While this bodes well for the industry, the U.S. continues to endure weak consumer confidence and high unemployment. “Until those factors turn around, we expect a slow and steady recovery,” he said. But the industry is more optimistic than it has been for some time, he says, now that the Marketplace Fairness Act appears set to help level the sales-tax playing field between brick-and-mortar and online retailers.

The optimism at RECon this year is virtually luminescent, some are saying. “It’s easily the best it’s been since the recession,” said Scot Courtney, president and director of retail services at Los Angeles–based Lee & Associates. The past two quarters have seen deals pick up substantially, a trend that is growing stronger, Courtney says. Lee & Associates is looking to capture that momentum at this convention and get out in front of the transactions, he says. “There’s a lot of pent-up demand.”

As the economy improves, rents are rising, but the strength of the recovery varies significantly by region. “Retailer growth, repositioning and expansion will likely continue to be market-sensitive and deliberate,” said Alvin Williams, a principal of Huntington Beach, Calif.–based Excess Space Retail Services. Williams says he is expecting a robust RECon, in terms of both attendance and deals. “It’s evident that retailers have become more proactive in evaluating opportunities to improve or expand their portfolios,” he said.

This year marks the Washington, DC Economic Partnership’s 15th RECon. “Our presence on the floor has resulted in over 100 new retail deals in D.C. and close to 3,500 new retail jobs, and we expect to finalize several conversations at this convention,” said Keith J. Sellars, the organization’s president and CEO. “This platform is invaluable for us.” The District of Columbia loses millions of dollars in revenue annually when its residents shop outside the city, says Victor Hoskins, a partnership co-chairman and the city’s deputy mayor for planning and economic development. “We are using our presence at ICSC to forge relationships with retailers who are a good fit for the city and who can help us mitigate this problem,” he said.

Randy Banchik, executive vice president of Westwood Financial Corp., anticipates a very active convention for his firm’s leasing and acquisition teams. “We expect more tenant meetings and interest this year as retail space continues to absorb,” he said. Banchik, who is set up in Central Hall, says Westwood has expanded its portfolio on the East Coast and in the Great Lakes region over the past year and will be looking for additional opportunities for U.S. expansion at RECon.

The retail real estate market is experiencing considerable momentum, “which should translate into a very exciting RECon,” said Jason Baker, a partner of Houston-based Baker Katz, who is setting up shop at the X Team International booth. “Without question, the most active segment is the grocery business,” he said.

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