At next week’s International Council of Shopping Centers (ICSC) New York Deal Making Conference, which will feature more exhibition space than ever, the focus likely will continue to be on the evolution of the omnichannel shopper and alternative uses of retail spaces.
The conference, ICSC’s second-largest of the year, will be held in New York City’s Jacob K. Javits Convention Center on Dec. 5-7 and is expected to draw around 10,000 attendees. New this year, the ICSC added a third day of programming to kick off the show, which will feature several hour-long educational sessions on topics ranging from the fate of grocery anchors to the future of retail to trends in the specialty retail space.
There also is an increase in square feet sold this year, to 206,000 sq. ft. from 175,000 sq. ft. last year, featuring 517 companies, up from 500 in 2016, according to ICSC. The event also will host, for the first time, an Innovation Lounge with interactive product demonstrations to showcase the newest developments in retail real estate technology. These include facial recognition-based loyalty programs, holographic retail displays and more.
JLL is planning to bring 135 employees this year, up from approximately 100 last year, says Greg Maloney, CEO of retail at JLL. Part of this increase stems from JLL’s decision to bring more employees from across the country, rather than just those from the East Coast, as New York has developed into more of a national business, he notes.
Within JLL, there had been concerns as to whether there would be as many retailers than in previous years, given the concerns facing the retail industry this year relating to store closings and ecommerce, Maloney says. So far this year, there have been more store closings than ever. Retail landlords have increasingly turned to non-retail uses, like apartments, to fill their properties. For this year’s post-Thanksgiving sales, 51.6 million consumers shopped only in-store, but 58.4 million only shopped online, according to the National Retail Foundation. Close to 65 million people shopped both in-store and online.
However, those fears have so far proven unfounded, Maloney says. “It’s not the case now,” he says, adding, “We’re sending our full contingency of people to New York.”
For the JLL crew, the conference serves as a way to tie up loose ends while setting their sights on 2018, trying to match retailers’ needs to what they have available for the upcoming year, Maloney says.
And for Maloney, the persistent headlines of an impending “retail apocalypse” are exaggerated. With 2018 around the corner, many of the trends in retail real estate from this year will continue to hold true, he notes. For example, consumers still want two main things when they shop: value—such as that found in many fast-fashion brands—and experience. Maloney says that bringing different uses and experiences to shopping centers—particularly food and beverage—continue to bring more people to those centers to stay longer. A focus also will be looking at alternative uses like healthcare and hotels, he adds. “It’s actually a very exciting time for us, because we’re transforming a lot of our properties into the properties of the future,” Maloney says.
Geoff Millerd, executive managing director at Newmark Knight Frank, also believes that the stories of a retail Armageddon are overblown. While there are some sectors, such as class-B malls and some of their tenants, struggling, the sentiment is not true for all. For example, Millerd and his team remain bullish on open-air strip centers. “It’s not necessarily applicable to the entire retail industry,” he adds.
News of the struggles in retail have sent waves of panic among institutional investors, but open-air centers, Millerd notes, remain vibrant. This comes as these centers shift their reliance on traditional fashion retailers to other uses, such as food and fitness. Discount retailers, such as TJ Maxx and Home Goods, also are performing well in the space, he adds. And while e-commerce continues to grow, Millerd says many online sales are coming from brick-and-mortar retailers that are evolving their platforms. “It’s really a maturation of our industry,” he notes.