NYC retail world preps for Sin City

Brokers to head en masse to Vegas for annual ICSC mega conference, but say scheduling shift is throwing off crucial party circuit

May.May 01, 2014 07:00 AM
From left:

From left: Joanne Podell of Cushman and Wakefield, Sonia Bain of Bryan Cave, Howard Michaels and HFZ’s Ziel Feldman

The New York City retail world is preparing to head en masse to Sin City for the largest annual international retail trade conference later this month.

The gathering, a must-attend for any top retail player in the country, is expected to draw even bigger crowds this year than last for its three-day event, which runs from May 18 to May 20.

Conference officials are expecting more than 33,000 people to attend, up from about 32,700 last year.

And New York City firms are sending more people than they have in the past. For example, Massey Knakal Realty Services is flying out about 30 people this year, said Todd Korren, an executive managing director at the firm. That’s up from the 23 Massey Knakal employees that attended last year, according to International Council of Shopping Centers ICSC figures.

In addition, national chains are sending bigger groups, said Jeffrey Roseman, a principal with Newmark Grubb Knight Frank Retail. Roseman said in previous years only top real estate executives attended the event, but now companies are sending more junior associates, too.

Brokers say the RECon conference —which is held at the Las Vegas Convention Center and features more than 1,000 exhibitors, including landlords, brokerages, retailers and other players — is invaluable.

But many who are attending this year’s conference griped to TRD last month about a one-day calendar shift that’s having a domino effect on the party-circuit schedule, and harped on the fact that the event has been shortened to three days from four. Landlords, brokerages, law firms, lenders and other party-throwers (and goers) are concerned because this year the main hall opens on Sunday, rather than on Monday, and closes on Tuesday rather than Wednesday. While that change might seem like small potatoes, it means attendees will be diving into the official events earlier, and will have less pre-event weekend time to kick off the parties, which are crucial networking opportunities where key business relationships are often firmed up.

Insiders say that New York deal-making has traditionally started with poolside parties on Saturday, including one hosted by developer Thor Equities, and another by brokerage Winick Realty Group. Sunday, meanwhile, was typically a slower day by the pool, when brokers and clients could hammer out deals in a relaxed environment far from New York City’s hustle and bustle. Monday night was often devoted to Newmark’s annual bash at the Cosmopolitan, with the unofficial wrap-up on Tuesday at the New York Developers Party, held poolside at the Bellagio.

But now all of that, plus the dozens of other parties hosted by New York and other retailer players, is getting squeezed into a tighter time line.

With the event opening on Sunday and closing at the end of the day Tuesday, there is simply less time, sources said. As a result, this year the New York Developers Party has been shifted to Monday night, and will go head-to-head with Newmark’s bash.

In addition to the main ICSC conference, some brokers will have to squeeze in time to stop by a sister event that giant mall operators Macerich, Simon Property and Westfield Group are hosting in Caesar’s Palace on the Las Vegas Strip. Typically brokers who do business with those large companies spend a day at that hotel, hopping from one company to another.

One broker, who asked not to be identified, described the ICSC scheduling change this way: “It has fucked everybody up.”

Others had a less negative take, but said the shift would have a significant impact.

“I kind of like the fact that it is starting on Sunday this year,” said Lisa Rosenthal, a managing director at the retail brokerage Lansco.

Nevertheless, “for those people who like to have their more informal meetings by the pool on Sunday, they are going to have to cram them all into Saturday. Everyone has formal appointments on Sunday.”

Jesse Tron, an ICSC spokesperson, said the conference was changed for “logistical and cost reasons,” and noted that the event also started on a Sunday in 2011.

“When the show [started] on Monday, we [had] to pay union labor time-and-a-half for the Sunday set-up,” he said.

This year, sources said, a potential rise in interest rates in properties that were purchased at peak figures could serve as an informal deadline to ink deals at the show.

“Vacancies must be filled as quickly as possible, at peak rents, before a potential big hiccup occurs in the market as interest rates rise over the following 12 months,” said Jared Epstein, a vice president with the landlord Aurora Capital Associates.

“Rising rates will likely change everything, including shopping habits,” added Epstein, who will be attending the event. “Now is the time to seize, and RECon in Vegas is one of the best opportunities to do so.”

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