By Sarah Trefethen
LAS VEGAS – Retail brokers, shopping center owners, developers, investors and a host of other professionals have flooded into Las Vegas for the International Council of Shopping Centers’ annual RECon, a networking, educational and deal making event that draws 30,000 participants each year.
The frenzy of deal making that takes place on the Monday and Tuesday of the convention is “the Superbowl of retail,” in the words of Newmark Grubb Knight Frank’s Jason Pruger.
Some analysts predict that the recovering economy will lead to a busy convention this year, as retailers look to position themselves to take full advantage of growing consumer demand.
The event, which occupies all three halls of the Las Vegas Convention Center, kicked off today with a keynote address by the best-selling author Malcolm Gladwell, who gave an outsider’s, birds-eye take on the role of retail businesses. In spite of competition from online sales, he said, the experience of shopping in brick-and-mortar stores still plays an important role in peoples’ lives.
“You’re not just in the real estate business, you’re in the business of satisfying real human needs,” he said.
Meanwhile, the socializing and networking extends well outside the convention center walls, where participants have taken over large chunks of space in Sin City’s many casino hotels.
By the pool or in the bar, participants say, the RECon sidelines are about relaxing, enjoying the sun, and getting to know the players in a highly competitive industry.
“Retail is tough,” Winick Realty’s Cosmo Montemurro said. “But at ICSC we leave the boxing gloves at home and bring our bathing suits.”