For the first time in quite some time, attendees at the International Council of Shopping Centers (ICSC) Spring Convention in Las Vegas (RECon) might be hoping that what happens in Vegas doesn’t stay in Vegas. There is no doubt in my mind that all the signs are pointing to an event that looks very different than the last few years. The convention runs from Sunday, May 19th through Wednesday, May 22nd at the Las Vegas Convention Center, and will play host to more than 30,000 attendees, around 1,000 exhibitors, and a renewed sense of enthusiasm about the future of our industry.
It’s not just the pre-convention energy and activity that has gotten my attention this year; there also seem to be some new, largely positive trends, which will almost certainly be evident over the course of the event. Here are a few of my observations about what seems to be different — and what we can look forward to — at the 2013 ICSC:
First off, everyone’s schedule is fully booked, and has been for the last several weeks. Not only is this the earliest I have known those personal and professional appointment books to be fully packed, but some meetings started being formally scheduled in March. I can’t remember a time when ICSC meetings were being planned that early in the year. The big question, of course, is whether or not those meetings will pan out: Will the busier schedules translate into deals or development momentum? There is no way to answer that question now, of course, but I think it is, at the very least, a positive indicator.
A change in focus
I also anticipate that a great deal of what is going to be presented to the retailers from the developers at this year’s RECon will be focused on redevelopment and mixed use. Comparatively speaking, there is still not a significant amount of new development out there. What is happening instead is that we are seeing attention paid to assets that have been ignored for a long time. Whether the planned changes in store for many of those assets are mostly cosmetic changes intended to attract tenants, or more along the lines of larger expansions or wholesale renovations, the desire for new investment is clearly evident.
Redevelopment opportunities in metro/urban markets have been a corresponding focus. I interpret this to mean that developers aren’t going after areas of suburban or exurban population growth as much as in the past, and are looking more at places with strong population/demographics already in place. Another trend I see in play that will likely make itself felt at ICSC is the tendency for retailers to look more closely at smaller markets than they have in the past. To a large degree, I think this is because they are rolling out smaller formats, giving them the flexibility to be able to move into both smaller markets and add more urban locations.
It’s also worth noting that there seem to be a larger number of parties and social events scheduled in 2013. While that might sound frivolous, this represents a deeper change of thinking: that developers and retailers believe these gatherings and special events (which are really a marketing expense) are once again worth the investment. And, given how quickly the ICSC parties and social events evaporated during the depths of the recession, their return is, to me at least, one more welcome sign of a recovery. Lastly, I found out the hard way that ICSC is virtually sold out of the rooms and lodging packages that are made available at special pricing for the convention. There is a definite positive mood out there when people are lining up to get to Vegas.
I’d be interested to hear from those planning to attend ICSC this year: Have your plans changed for 2013? Are you seeing any signs that this year’s convention could be action-packed relative to past years? What are you looking forward to at the event? Join the conversation by leaving a comment below or feel free to e-mail me at [email protected].
Click here for past columns by Jeff Green.
Renaissance at Colony Park sets lifestyle standard
When Renaissance at Colony Park opened in Ridgeland, Miss., in 2008, it created a stir not only among the local residents of Ridgeland, Miss., but also within the retailer and shopping center communities as a whole.
The project, developed by Mattiace Properties and H.C. Bailey Cos., pulled together the aesthetic elements of a Main Street and town center format with strategic, traffic-driving retail, entertainment and dining offerings.
Renaissance at Colony Park provides spacious green common areas, water features, and a town center square. The design is derived from European and Mediterranean influences, and incorporates classical features such as arched openings, clay tile roofs, and stone and stucco facades. An Italian fountain serves as a focal point at the entrance to the town square, which also features a clock tower.
The approximately half-million sq. ft. of retail offerings includes anchor tenants Fresh Market, Ethan Allen, Barnes & Noble and Apple Store. Dining options abound – with everything from Five Guys Burgers and Fries to P.F. Chang’s to Biaggi’s Ristorante Italiano and Ruth’s Chris Steak House. Specialty retailers include Brooks Brothers, Sephora, Charming Charlie, Banana Republic and Anthropologie.
Sharing space on the 57 acres is a Hyatt Place Hotel and about 65,000 sq. ft. of office space, allowing the project to leverage several components toward creating a fully integrated work-shop-dine complex.
Former Aeropostale exec named to Blue Nile board
SEATTLE — Blue Nile, an online retailer of diamonds and fine jewelry, has appointed former Aeropostale co-CEO Mindy Meads to its board of directors.
Meads has 35 years of experience in the global apparel industry. She currently serves on two public boards — Wet Seal, a specialty teen brand, and Mela Sciences, a bio tech company. In these roles, she provides strategic counsel focused on growth and the use of multichannel business strategies.
"We are very excited Mindy is joining our board of directors," said Harvey Kanter, Blue Nile president and CEO. "Mindy has played a key role in the success of some of the world’s most well-known retail brands, and her proven leadership and experience will be instrumental as we continue to build our global brand."
Previously, Meads was co-CEO of Aeropostale, where she successfully reinvigorated the merchandise assortment and launched "P.S.," Aeropostale’s kids division. During her tenure, the company’s revenue grew substantially and was recognized as one of the Fortune 100 Fastest Growing Companies.
Prior to Aeropostale, Meads was CEO and president of Victoria’s Secret Direct. Before that, she held executive merchandising positions at Lands’ End for 14 years, including CEO and president during her last two years. In these roles, she successfully built the organization’s global brand around quality, value and service. Earlier in her career, Meads held a wide range of executive and operating roles at Sears, Gymboree, The Limited and Macy’s.
In addition to her corporate work, Meads sits on the board of governors of Hugh O’Brian Youth Leadership and the board of trustees of the Masters School. She serves as an adviser to LIM College in New York City, the Little Black Bag Accessory Company and the Be Kind People Project. She is also a former director of the Federal Reserve Board for the 7th District (Chicago) and a former director of the C200 Foundation, an invitation-only group of pre-eminent women leaders from around the world. She received a bachelor of science from the University of Illinois in 1974.
With the addition of Meads, there are nine members on Blue Nile’s board.