RECon 2016 kicks off with 36,000 attendees

Publish Date: May 22, 2016

More than 36,000 retail real estate executives from around the world have gathered in Las Vegas this week for RECon 2016, the highest number to attend an the annual event in the post-recession era.

“These numbers are being driven by an industry that is vibrant and growing,” said Tom McGee, ICSC’s president and CEO. “This attendance and the hundreds of deals we’ll see signed in Las Vegas this week speak volumes about the bright future for physical retail.”

Hundreds of companies are exhibiting, and public-sector agencies are here in strength too — about 90 in total — including delegations from Baltimore, New Orleans, Oklahoma City and Washington, D.C. New participants from the public sector this year include the city of Arlington, Texas, and the St. Thomas Economic Development Corp., of Ontario, Canada. Ironically, this is also the first year for the city of Las Vegas, despite its having played host to RECon for years.

Those seeking capital need only pop over to the Finance Pavilion, where this year some 25 companies are offering their services.

This year’s show kicked off Sunday with a keynote presentation from former NBA star Earvin “Magic” Johnson, who since retiring from basketball has carved out a successful career in retail real estate, retail and other ventures. Johnson first came to the annual convention some 20 years ago when he starting out his new career. “I really started my business career here,” he said, describing how he bought — and later sold at a profit — his first shopping center.

Johnson went on to forge a partnership with Starbucks, bringing the coffee restaurants to urban communities all over the U.S. Johnson’s several other business ventures, including the Magic Johnson Theaters chain — all grouped under his $700 million Magic Johnson Enterprises conglomerate — have also focused on inner-city development. “Do good and do well at the same time,” he said, citing the benefits his projects and philanthropy have bestowed on inner-city neighborhoods.

Today the entrepreneur is conserved the most powerful African American businessman in the world. “This organization [ICSC] and a lot of you here today, helped me to get where I am today,” he said.

In a lengthy question and answer session, audience members were almost entirely focused on seeking Johnson’s expertise in business and development.

Delegates also turned out to see other speakers Sunday, including Tony Hsieh, who as CEO of Zappos turned the online retailer into a $1 billion business.

Today attendees are turning to their own business, streaming in the thousands to the Las Vegas Convention Center’s Leasing Mall, Marketplace Mall and the SPREE (specialty retailing) area.

“There is a sense of tremendous excitement and energy here,” McGee said. “The impact of the agreements made over the next few days will be seen and experienced in communities across the world.  It’s going to be a great week.”

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