As retail real estate professionals from around the world prepare for the annual RECon convention in Las Vegas, it seems pretty clear to me that the anticipation for this year’s event is on the rise. This is a noticeable change from some recent years, where the recession eliminated any enthusiasm we once saw in the “glory days.”
People I talk to in the industry are excited to get together this year; they are truly looking forward to it. Quite honestly, I haven’t felt this kind of pre-RECon buzz and positive energy since 2007. And if my own calendar is any indication, we should expect good things to come (the last time my conference schedule was this full was 2007)! All of this optimism and energy leads me to believe that this is likely to be the most well attended RECon in several years. (I’ll revisit the attendance issue after the convention to see if my predictions were on point).
Given the context of what seems likely to be a lively, well-attended event, it will be even more interesting to watch and see the extent to which a few recent RECon trends continue. One of those, of course, is the prevalence of redevelopment opportunities over new development (it will likely take a more robust period of sustained growth to change that dynamic), and another is the growing international presence at the convention—a reflection of an industry that is growing faster overseas than at home. But to me, one of the biggest changes is in the tenor of the convention itself: RECon is not even really about just doing a deal or signing a lease anymore; it’s about learning more about the new projects and opportunities out there, and about putting a face to the name: networking, in other words. That networking—the personal interactions that help to forge and strengthen professional connections—is more important than ever at a time when professional communications are conducted more and more via email. In a sense, RECon has evolved beyond simply a deal hub, and is now a forum for making a connection beyond the deal.
So, what will be the big takeaways from the 2012 installment of RECon? I think people will be surprised that retailers’ growth plans are as robust as they are. My sense of it is that the industry is ready to make some big moves. I also think competition is going to remain a big theme. These days everyone i