Arrowstreet has attended the annual International Council of Shopping Centers Real Estate Convention (RECon) for over 20 years. With all of the major shopping center developers, real estate brokers and retailers present, the convention is THE place to be for anybody in retail real estate development. Some years, more than 40,000 people descend upon Las Vegas to plan projects, broker deals, and network. This year, the convention ran from May 19 through May 22. We were there and the mood in the convention hall was enthusiastic.
During the recession, attendance dipped along with the industry’s confidence, but this year optimism reigned. Everybody seemed busy and happy. The broker booths were jammed with people, the developer booths were overrun with meetings, and everybody had plans and renderings in their hands and on their screens. Interestingly, we noticed that many of the convention booths were completely redesigned, some organizations spending as much as seven figures on their new look. In addition to new furniture for meetings, banks of video screens displaying mega-images seemed to be one of the new guiding principles.
Everybody was talking about development deals and new stores. And it wasn’t just talk without substance. In several “market trends” presentations, numbers were shown to back up the optimism. Marcus & Millichap said retail sales are up 12 percent over 2007, which by all accounts was a good year. The US added 155,000 construction jobs in the past 12 months. And according to Jones Lang LaSalle, rents have increased and vacancies have decreased.
A couple months ago, I wrote about the claim that internet retail is stagnating retail real estate development (link). I didn’t believe it then, and seeing the excitement in the Las Vegas conventioneer’s eyes, I really don’t believe it now. Retail real estate development is back. I’ve already written about some of the retail design work on our boards (link), and soon we’ll have more updates with other exciting projects we’re doing.