Wednesday, May 20 2015
RECon -- The deals are rolling, with attendance at RECon higher than it has been for years, as developers, retailers and others reap the benefits of an improving global economy.
Nearly 33,000 preregistered for this year’s show, about 3,000 more than last year. Thousands more are expected to register on-site for the four-day event.
“It’s a great time to be in the business,” said Robert Myers, COO of Phillips Edison & Co., which has had a busy year of acquisitions that promises only to get busier. The company, which added 2,000 square feet to its booth last year for a total 5,000 square feet has 72 people at the show and 800 meetings lined up, says Myers.
“The vibe is good,” said Robert E. Young Jr., managing director of the Dallas-based Weitzman Group brokerage, which has brought 75 executives to RECon this year, and has 375 scheduled meetings — and plenty of unscheduled ones besides. Retailers are expanding in tandem with an expanding job market, and food retailers — whether they be supermarkets or fast-food vendors — are particular hot, Young added.
JLL also is busy, having brought 250 staffers to the event, and it will be a strong presence at ICSC’s other meetings in the course of the year. “This year we’re expecting our team to have more than 4,000 appointments with retailers and investors throughout the conferences,” said JLL’s Retail President and CEO Greg Maloney.
But Maloney says he has concerns too. While the luxury and value retail sectors are thriving, those retailers lying in between are seeing less growth. “Retail sales’ annualized growth is still less than 3 percent across the U.S.,” he said. “The troule continues to be with the middle-market retailers and consumers. Higher taxes are cutting into this segment’s disposable income, thus affecting retail sales.
But he remains optimistic. “The appositive sentiment and response I’m seeing heading into the conference is far better than the past five years,” he said.
Executives at InvenTrust Properties Corp., an Oakbrook, Ill.–based self-managed real estate investment trust , have a busy conference ahead of them.
“This is an extremely busy show for us, with two-and-a-half days of appointments booked back to back by our leasing and transactions teams,” said Michael Podboy, executive vice president and chief investment officer at InvenTrust, which owns 108 retail properties, comprising 15.5 million square feet in 24 states. “A key focus for us is acquisitions activity.”
Fast-casual restaurants comprise one particularly hot sector, said Grant Cary, president of brokerage services at The Woodmont Co., a developer in Fort Worth Texas. “Throughout our discussions three trends have consistently garnered time and discussion,” he said. Besides the restaurants, Cary says he is observing “the rapid expansion of fitness and health-conscious concepts” and a robust appetite by online retailers for brick-and-mortar stores.
The event is coinciding with a flurry of announcements. The Ascena Retail Group said today it will acquire Ann Taylor, Loft and Lou & Grey, for $2.16 billion. Nordstrom is opening five full line and 27 Nordstrom Rack stores this year, and several more next year.
“The number of people flocking to this year’s RECon not only testifies to the growth of the global economy, but also speaks to the health and robustness of the shopping center model,” said ICSC President and CEO Michael P. Kercheval. “Landlords and retailers are voting with their money on the future of the shopping center.”