ICSC kicks off

By Adam Pincus | May 21, 2012 11:30AM

The International Council of Shopping Centers’ annual global retail convention, RECon, held in Las Vegas each May, kicked off Sunday with several speeches by headliners such as author Malcolm Gladwell. In addition, thousands of attendees visited the business services booths and a dozen special interest group panels, including several with New York brokers and executives. The main landlord and broker floors are set to open today.

Glenn Rufrano, CEO of Cushman & Wakefield, spoke on a three-person panel which touched on the most promising markets for retail. He said while the opportunity for growth in mature retail markets is generally more difficult than in emerging markets, some shopping districts, like Upper Fifth Avenue, have seen big increases in recent years.

“On Fifth Avenue [a few years ago] we were talking about $2,000 to $2,500 per square foot. Now we are talking about $3,000 and $3,500 per square foot,” he said, and added “A large part of that is branding as well as merchandizing.”

After the panel, he told The Real Deal that there was not yet a succession plan to replace Joseph Harbert, the former COO of the New York tri-state region, who announced on Friday was joining Colliers International.

“We have no plans for someone to take his place at this time,” Rufrano said, adding he did not view the departure — coming just after Arthur Mirante announced he was leaving for Avison Young and sources saying Bruce Mosler had been in talks with Newmark Grubb Knight Frank as well as Colliers — as representing a fundamental weakness at Cushman.

“I don’t think it is any more than natural movement,” Rufrano said.

On another panel, hosted by Prudential Douglas Elliman’s Faith Hope Consolo, chairman of retail leasing and sales, a top Starbucks Coffee executive said Manhattan was likely to be part of the coffee giant’s new global plan to lease and open very small 500-square-foot spaces for quick service coffee, often near transit hubs. A half-dozen stores were recently opened, including in Chicago, Brenda Godfrey, a vice president global store development for Starbucks, said.

“It’s a very quick, in-and-out experience for our customers. So a smaller footprint, smaller rents, smaller buildout costs. [With] a lower cost of entry, it’s a model that we can use as an infill strategy,” Godfrey said. She could not immediately identify if any Manhattan locations had been selected.

Meanwhile, at a panel covering real estate finance, Michael Pierro, a managing director at C-III Commercial Mortgage, based in Midtown, (a division of Andrew Farkas’ C-III Capital Partners) discussed the cost of occupancy in grocery stores, among other topics. The panel was moderated by Ackman-Ziff managing director Lee Norman.

Few top professionals from the New York brokerage and landlord firms were spotted in the audience at the panels. Many spent Sunday afternoon socializing. For example, David Firestein, partner at SCG Retail, was playing golf, and Adelaide Polsinelli, senior director at Eastern Consolidated, meet up with a group for lunch at the Encore.

There were several parties Sunday night as well, including Lee & Associates hosting brokers and clients at the Todd English P.U.B.; and the Shopping Center Group, a retail brokerage based in Atlanta with a strong presence in the South, which held a packed event at the Four Seasons. The Shopping Center Group partnered with Northwest Atlantic Real Estate Services of New York in February. (The Manhattan office of the company is now known as SCG Retail.)

Chase Welles, a partner with SCG, speaking at the Four Seasons event, said the RECon show seemed to be getting off on the right foot.

“Everybody is doing deals,” he said.