Registration for this year’s ICSC New York National Deal Making Conference is expected to break 10,000.
The retail real estate convention, held at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center from December 6 through 8, brought in about 9,600 attendees last year. Jesse Tron, an ICSC spokesman, says the association expects attendance to be up about 10 percent from 2014. The New York show, which started out as more of a regional deal-making conference, may be beginning to rival the annual May RECon event in Las Vegas as a draw for foreign players, Tron says.
“We’re seeing a growth in the amount of people coming from Asia and Europe to the New York show, which makes sense, really, as it’s easier for them to get there instead of the middle of the country,” he notes.
Tron also attributes the growth to the successful move from hosting the event at two separate Midtown Manhattan hotels in previous years to a 168,000-sq.-ft. space at the Javits Center. Most of all, however, he attributes the increase to the improvement in the overall economy.
“These conferences, here and in Vegas, are really sort of a bell-whether of how the industry is performing,” Tron says. “If we have contraction in attendance for New York, it usually is an indicator of some softness in the market. Growth usually is a good sign for the year ahead.”
This year’s conference will kick off with a preview networking event on Sunday night. Monday’s events will feature Joe Girardi, the New York Yankees manager, as the keynote speaker. Also returning will be a larger version of the Retailer Row, with participating companies including Target, Starbucks, Century 21, Juice Press and Walgreens, among others.
The New York conference is more narrowly focused on deal making than the RECon show, which also features a heavy education program schedule, Tron notes. Anjee Solanki, national director of retail services for commercial real estate services firm Colliers International, says her 55 colleagues have already arranged more than 100 meetings for the two-day conference.
The use of in-store technology and new ways to get merchandise to consumers are two topics Solanki says she expects to hear talked about at the show. The use of tablets in stores is just starting to spread, she says, with restaurants leading the way.
“For example, I’ve seen a McDonald’s in Portugal that had four large touchscreen ordering areas filled with people, while the traditional [line] ordering food with a person was empty,” Solanki says. “We’re also concerned about new ideas of speed to the consumer. With time becoming more and more scarce, it leads us to pay for speed. Will retailers look to ideas such as Amazon same-day delivery, Task Rabbit or other such technology as their next distribution channel?”
Greg Maloney, president and CEO of Americas retail for real estate services firm JLL, says JLL will have about 50 people at the show, including a small local contingent and teams coming from places such as California and Dallas. He says his firm has increased its retail staff by about 30 percent since last year’s show, and every person is booked solid at deal meetings this year.
“It’s a very good conference, second to Las Vegas for the amount of people, I know I’m booked solid every half hour,” he says. “This will be key deal-making time for us. It takes three months to get a deal on paper, and six more months to get it open, so all the deals done at ICSC will come on-line right in the first quarter, and the deals from this show will be ready in time for the holiday season in 2016.”
He says a hot topic at the show will likely be the reported large increase in online sales during the recent Black Friday shopping period. According to the National Retail Federation’s Thanksgiving Weekend Survey, for the first time ever, more shoppers preferred to buy online (103 million) vs. rather than at brick-and-mortar stores (102 million).
The retail world has gone through a significant change, says Matthew Shay, NRF president and CEO. NRF had predicted a large increase in online sales, particularly from mobile devices such as tablets and smartphones. “We recognize the Thanksgiving weekend shopping experience is much different than it used to be,” he says. “It is clear that the age-old holiday tradition of heading out to stores with family and friends is now equally matched in the new tradition of looking online for holiday savings opportunities.”
However, Maloney says he has doubts about the data. The NRF survey, conducted by Prosper Insights and Analytics, only polled 4,281 people.
“I think there’s some misrepresentation going on, especially since we won’t really know until at least next week any of the actual sales data,” Maloney says. “It’s also a little fuzzy—what counts as an online sale? For example, does that include someone who orders online and picks up in the store? A lot of these things need to be ironed out and examined to see really how sales are breaking out.”