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ICSC RECon Preview: Changing Landscape And New Destinations At This Year's Annual Retail Convention

Coffee, tea and anything that keeps a person awake are Chris Maling's secrets to making it through the biggest and, he says, the most important retail convention in the world.

Maling, principal of retail capital markets for Avison Young, has been attending ICSC RECon for the past 30 years. 

Early morning crowd at ICSC RECon in Las Vegas

“Once we hit the convention floor, we’re off and running,” Maling said. “From 8:30 a.m. every day, every half hour, we have a booked meeting either in our booths or at a client’s booth to talk about their retail real estate investment needs.

“This is the place to do deals, get deals done or lay the groundwork for future deals.”

The annual ICSC RECon kicks off Sunday, May 19, and runs to Wednesday, May 22, at the Las Vegas Convention Center. More than 30,000 professionals in the retail industry are slated to be in attendance. Brokerage firms, health and wellness companies, and innovative tech companies will be among the more than 1,000 booths to line the convention floor. 

The convention comes as brick-and-mortar retail continues to transform. With legacy retail stores closingproperty prices going down and e-commerce catching up in sales, there are plenty of concerns looming over the retail industry. 

But people like Maling attending ICSC RECon see plenty of reasons to be excited for the asset class.  

“The key takeaway is that [retail] is not going to go away,” Maling said. “It is a very strong investment asset class for both private clients and institutional clients to own and have in your portfolio and it’s still a very active and vibrant sector.”

Former Dallas Cowboys quarterback and current CBS sports analyst Tony Romo will serve as a keynote speaker on Sunday. Other keynotes through the four-day conference include Marcus Lemonis, an entrepreneur and star of CNBC’s “The Profit,” and Julie Rice, a partner at coworking giant WeWork. Lemonis will speak on Monday and Rice on Tuesday.

New this year at RECon, ICSC is introducing a destinations area, five trends that “showcase the industry-changing concepts that reflect the evolution taking place in centers across the country, including the increased focus on seamlessly integrating digital and physical retail real estate,” ICSC spokeswoman Stephanie Cegielski said in an emailed statement to Bisnow.

Avison Young Principal Retail Capital Markets Chris Maling

The destinations are:

  • Retail in Focus: an area that will spotlight both specialty retail and emerging brands.
  • Health and Wellness Center: an area where Walgreens, Kaiser Permanente, Retrofitness and others highlight retail’s shift to health and wellness. 
  • The Innovation Exchange: showcasing the latest innovations in retail, and tech companies looking to disrupt the industry.
  • The Outlet Centers: this destination will highlight how owners and developers are taking advantage of this growing segment of the industry.
  • The Colleges & Universities destination: where aspiring retail real estate professionals can learn more about the industry and professional development.

Along with the destinations areas and the booths in the convention, there are hourly educational seminars that will keep retail professionals abreast of the latest happenings in the industry. 

The seminars include how to negotiate a lease, effective social media strategy and how to operate a food truck. Other panels include a focus on opportunity zone programs, how retailers are using artificial intelligence, omnichannel distribution and where cannabis fits in retail.

“RECon is a one-of-a-kind event that brings to life the exciting innovations of the brick-and-mortar experience like never before,” ICSC President and CEO Tom McGee said in a statement. “Beyond strategic deal making and professional development, the new destinations at RECon allow attendees to ‘experience the experience’ and see firsthand the rise of the consumer channel and the disruptive potential throughout our fast-paced industry.”

For Maling, the convention is a place where he can catch up with old colleagues, wine-and-dine former and new clients, and meet people. 

“It’s the who’s who in retail,” Maling said. “Everybody that is connected in retail — construction vendors, developers, leasing agents, property managers, investment brokers, retailers — all come under one roof for four days to engage, transact and focus on the retail industry.

"You have to be there." 

CORRECTION, MAY 16, 10:40 A.M. PT: A previous version of this story had the wrong name for ICSC spokeswoman Stephanie Cegielski. The story has been updated.