This is not your father’s (or my father’s) RECon. True, the conference wasn’t called that back then, but it is clear to me that this influential annual event is evolving. I see three relatively new RECon trends/developments that I think are significant beyond the conference itself; indicating bigger-picture changes within the broader retail real estate industry:
Stronger international presence
The international element of the convention has definitely been noteworthy in recent years, a trend I think is likely to continue. Part of that is because of the growing presence of international brands on the American retail landscape—to complement the growth of U.S. brands overseas—but I think on a deeper, more fundamental level, it is perhaps the inevitable result of an increasingly connected world (and interconnected) world. Thanks to the Internet, you can buy anything from anywhere at any time. Retail—and, in particular, retail branding—has become a worldwide phenomenon. After all, when you put something out there on Twitter, for example, you are not just reaching your regional or domestic market, you are reaching a global market.
More municipalities attending
I have seen attendance by municipalities spike in recent years, and, with that, I think RECon has been seeing a correspondingly more diverse spectrum of exhibitors. It’s not surprising, if you think about it. Tax revenues are shrinking, and municipalities are looking to drive them back up. I think the increased municipal attendance is the result of a growing understanding that they have to be proactive about bringing in more retail. The success of improvement by districts and similar initiatives around the country provides a blueprint on how to make this happen, but municipalities are finding that they have to really court the iconic brands. A lean economy has only ramped up the competition for big names, prompting municipalities to step up marketing efforts. Downtowns are even open to big boxes they would not have even considered in the past. But, in today’s market, you need a compelling story because retailers have more options than ever before.
A younger and more diverse group of attendees
This is actually less of a trend and more of a need. While the industry is certainly getting mo