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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).
WASHINGTON DC 09.14.2017


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Jane Cafritz
Calvin Cafritz Enterprises
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Urban Investment Partners (UIP)
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Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA)