ICSC's RECon 2010 is just hours away from officially getting underway.
The next few hours should prove interesting. For one, how will people respond to the conference's new format? With more activities beginning today and the whole deal wrapping up by Tuesday afternoon how long will people end up being in town? I get the sense that a lot of folks are coming in for Sunday and Monday but not staying for Tuesday. Some people came in Saturday so they could get a jump on their conference first thing this morning. There were even a few pre-conference cocktail parties last night. But if the cab line yesterday was any indication, many attendees have yet to get here. I've never seen the cab queue at McCarren as short as it was yesterday. My hunch is that there are a stream of industry pros flying in today so that they're here when the Leasing Mall and Trade Expo officially open at 2PM.
The new format means that the concurrent sessions and opening general session won't be up against the Leasing Mall. So if people want to meet, they need to do it informally before 2. And I wonder how many people may end up scheduling around the General Session so they can get a glimpse of former Alaska governor and Republican 2008 vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin. Will her presentation be a boilerplate speech full of folksy tales? Or will she cater her message to talk about issues near and dear to the hearts of retail real estate executives? I wonder, for example, if she will talk about the growing sentiment in Congress in favor of raising the carried interest tax rate--an issue that will greatly affect the industry should it come to pass.
In addition, how many people will show up this year? Estimates are that attendance may reach 30,000. That would be a bit of improvement over last year, if still well short of the massive turnouts we saw at the industry's peak a few years ago.
Perhaps what I'm most interested in learning is what the overall mood will be. A few weeks ago there seemed to be some real positive momentum building in both the economy and the industry. Retail sales have been strong in recent months. Industry fundamentals have begun to stabilize. And the economy was continuing to improve in many regards. There have even been stirrings in the last couple of months among some retailers about opening new stores and rolling out new concepts. So the leasing climate has begun to improve.
But the days leading up to the conference have reintroduced uncertainty. Macroeconomic concerns about potential sovereign defaults have shaken global markets. The carried interest issue looms large. And without strong and consistent job and income growth, it's hard to see retail sales growing robustly.
So will attendees focus on the positive signs or will some of the more unsettling developments in recent weeks shake their confidence?
Lastly, it's just 55 degrees currently in Vegas, with the high temperature today forecast at 61 degrees. Did anyone pack for that kind of weather?
All these questions will be answered in the coming hours and days. Stay tuned to this blog, to the Retail Traffic page and follow us on Twitter for updates throughout the conference on these issues and more.