As thousands of retailers and shopping center owners and managers prepare to descend on Las Vegas for the International Council of Shopping Centers’ 2011 RECon conference May 22-25, we thought it appropriate to talk with a retail real estate expert about not only the state of the industry, but also what to expect from this year’s show.
Senior editor Katherine Field talked with Mitchel S. Friedman, senior VP of New York City-based RCS Real Estate Advisors, to gain his insights about the show and the industry as a whole.
With RECon rapidly approaching, what do you expect to see in terms of highlights, climate and retailer sentiment at the convention?
Overall, I think we’re going to see a positive, optimistic climate this year; one we haven’t seen in awhile. Retailers are focusing more on growth and expansion rather than survival, and are closely weighing all of their options. So, I think one of the biggest highlights coming out of the show this year will be a higher level of activity and actual deal making.
Comparing this year’s show to what we experienced last year, which was at best cautious optimism, what do you think will be different, if anything?
I think the biggest difference will be that people are more optimistic without the caution. There are certainly a number of things going on in the world that people are keeping their eye on, but nothing that is raising caution like we’ve seen in the past. For the most part, I think people are more comfortable with where we are and what it means going forward, so they now feel a little better about taking the necessary steps to ensure their success for the future.
What will be your focus at the convention?
Our focus is really in two areas: The first being to serve our vast existing client base by helping them manage their current real estate and their growth plans; and the other is meeting with retailers to identify new clients and prospects. We have had great success serving as the outsourced real estate department to many companies and would like to be helping more retailers manage their real estate portfolios and position themselves for growth and prosperity.
What do you anticipate will be key RECon takeaways, especially as retailers return home to face the back half of 2011?
In the second half of 2011, I think most retailers will be concentrating on implementing opportunities uncovered at RECon. Most probably already have determined what they think they need, but I think they’ll come out of RECon knowing what they need to do and will then do it. The biggest takeaway will be related to aggressive growth in 2012. Retailers will leave the show with a clear picture of the optimism that exists, and will start to formulate their best expansion strategies for next year.
Where will RCS’ priorities lie for the last half of the year?
We will continue to focus on providing outsourced real estate services to our existing clients, and identifying and pursuing other retailers who would benefit from those services. We will also spend a significant amount of time servicing companies who are experiencing near-term difficulties by helping them restructure their real estate portfolios.