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December 9, 2008


Our diligent reporter, Amanda Marsh, filed this story at 1am this morning. But our not-so-diligent editor (mea culpa) thought it went out already, when it hadn't. Pretend it's still morning, okay?


Yesterday, we joined 7,000 of our closest retail friends at the International Council of Shopping Centers’ annual New York national conference at the Sheraton New York Hotel & Towers and the Hilton New York. Overall, attendance was slightly down in the turbulent market, but the event certainly remained abuzz with plenty of deal making and hand shaking (which will go on until noon tomorrow).


Howard Davidowitz, chairman of retail consulting firm Davidowitz & Associates, kicked off the day with a bit of gloom, using the term “trainwreck” to describe both the U.S. economy and consumers. Banks won’t lend because there are possibly more shoes yet to drop, and people have less money to spend—good for value retail, bad for discretionary retail. He told the crowd to take a cue from Sam Walton and operate as if we were in a depression. Developers Diversified Realty president Daniel Hurwitz, who moderated the session, joked that Howard would need a police escort to leave safely after his talk.


But there are ways to stay on top during trying times, pointed out GDR Creative Intelligence managing director Kate Ancketill, using examples of retailers who are successfully navigating the market using three strategies: creating a salon culture, because people want to do things together; creating magnetic retail, such as pop-up branding, to keep people coming back; and appealing to particular lifestyles, whether helping an aging demographic or bringing in more technology for the younger set.


We finally began to recover from Howard’s speech after Regency Centers president (and ICSC chair) Mary Lou Fiala took the podium, pointing out the bright spots in today’s market: retail sales are up 1.4% year-over-year; Black Friday sales were up 7.2% over 2007, with an average $327.57 spent; the market doesn’t have the overbuilding and excessive openings of the ‘90s; the U.S. population is rapidly growing; and shopping centers are no longer dependent on a limited pool of anchor tenants.


And what’s imperative in this market is innovation, said guest speaker Mickey Drexler, chair of J. Crew—many retailers won’t be around after this market without it. His suggestions? Always start with what the customer thinks, and understand that the more ubiquitous a product is, the less it’s worth. Overall, the industry needs creativity, quality, newness and value. “This cannot be a GM, Chrysler and Ford situation,” he urged.


Decreased attendance? We certainly couldn’t tell from the packed cocktail hour (although one attendee noted the absence of shrimp from the hors d'oeuvres table).

Merriment and Marketing at Hearst Tower

Following ICSC, we dropped in on a Hearst/CB Richard Ellis co-hosted holiday party at the Hearst Tower’s sky lobby, a joint celebration and marketing effort to show off two prime ground-floor retail opportunities in the building. From left to right: CBRE’s Richard Hodos; Hearst’s Brian Schwagerl, Ron Doerfler and Nora Grenier; and CBRE’s David LaPierre. Richard and David are marketing the 2,510 and 12k-SF blocks with colleagues Janelle Rovegno, Steve Sjurset and Bill Shanahan.


Brian and Richard with J. Crew’s Holly Cohen and husband Jon Cohen of Turnberry Associates. The clothier has been keeping quite busy in Manhattan, recently opening its Madewell brand flagship store at Broadway and Broome Street, and its Liquor Store men’s shop at 235 West Broadway in TriBeCa, a bar-turned-boutique. Note Holly’s and Mickey Drexler’s (above story) outfits: scarves are apparently in fashion.


Lansco’s Mike Antkies, Brett Zelner and Bobby Blama, who were checking out the ground-floor digs for some of their major (and undisclosed) corporate clients looking for more sustainable space. Hearst Tower is rated LEED Gold and has been declared the first green building in New York City.


Gensler’s Julia Simet, flanked by Turner Construction’s Bert Rahm and John Thomann. Both firms actually worked on the construction of Hearst Tower, with Gensler as the interior architect and Turner as construction manager. Today, Julia reports that law firms have been a solid source of business, while John’s keeping busy with the hospitality sector.

Leo A Daly
Arent Fox
Reznick Group
Casa Noble
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