Heard on the Floor

The real action at the ICSC New York National Conference & Dealmaking kicked off today as the exhibitors' hall opened and more than 8,000 attendees flooded the Hilton New York & Towers in Midtown Manhattan.

The show is more crowded than ever, making it near impossible to get around, especially if your appointments are at booths spread too far apart in the maze-like exhibition space.

It seems that each year, the New York show more and more resembles the madness of the Spring Convention in Las Vegas. There has been lots of grumbling about late appointments as people have tried in vain to rush from one end of the conference to the other. Making it even more challenging this year is the addition of spillover exhibition space down the street at the Sheraton New York Ballroom West. So in addition to fighting crowds at the Hilton, you've got to brave the cold and walk down the street to get that last appointment done.

There has been the usual amount of buzz at this year's show. Here are some of the more interesting things seen and heard “on the floor.”

  • There's been a lot of talk at the show that the “mall is back.” Sure, there's still dozens of lifestyle centers and mixed-use projects on the drawing boards. But suddenly the regional mall, which many were ready to leave for dead, is making a bit of a comeback. At the heart of that sentiment is the strength of several department store chains and the sense that the sector, after a prolonged tumultuous stretch, is finally stabilizing. (For example, Federated Department Stores, posted a same-store sales gain of 8.5 percent in November, its best figure in years.)That's evidenced by recent same-store growth in that sector in recent months—the highest in years. There's still no one talking about building new regional malls. But the idea that the malls are doing okay is calming the nerves of firms with a lot of them in their management portfolio
  • The Jaffe Companies is working hard to bring a very upscale movie theater to Woodridge, Ill. The project—a so-called “Gold Class” cinema developed by Village Roadshow Corp.—would feature eight screens, each with 40 to 50 seats. Tickets would be a whopping $20 to $25 a seat, but it won't be your standard movie theater chair. Instead they're talking about luxurious recliners. And the theaters will include full bars and a menu with $35 entrees. Village Roadshow currently operates three of these theaters, one each in Greece, Singapore and Australia.
  • Saint Consulting published the results of its second annual Saint Index, which measures attitudes towards development. The company surveys 1,000 people annually gauging how they feel about all kinds of development. Among retail uses, Americans are most opposed to Wal-Mart, with 68 percent saying they oppose construction of Wal-Mart stores in their neighborhoods (with just 30 percent approving). After that, large shopping centers (57 percent) drew the most opposition followed by home improvement stores (56 percent) and department stores (55 percent). Grocery stores are the most accepted, with 70 percent supporting construction of new supermarkets in their neighborhoods.
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