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Brokers get some face time during ICSC RECon 2017

LAS VEGAS: If the REBNY banquet is the industry’s Oscars, then ISCC RECon is its Coachella.

In the midst of a national retail slump, brokers partied their troubles away under a scorching sun in Las Vegas OVER the past few days. And if they were worried, they sure weren’t showing it.

On Sunday, Winick’s poolside party at the Wynn was dominated by young male brokers sweating in the 100-degree Vegas heat. Steve Winick, Jeff Roseman, David Firestein, and Jed Walentas were at the afternoon shindig. Later in the evening, SCG Retail’s bash at the Four Seasons quickly filled up with thousands of brokers, followed by Lee & Associates’ party at SLS, RKF’s Marquee shindig, and Marcus & Millichap’s late-night bash at Intrigue at the Wynn.

The convention center was packed and buzzing on Monday morning, but by the afternoon, many had left to head for another round of parties held by Cushman & Wakefield, JLL, Acadia Realty and Newmark Grubb Knight Frank. Both American Dream mall in New Jersey and Empire Outlets in Staten Island made announcements during the conference.

Empire Outlets announced that structural concrete was completed this week at the Staten Island project, and developer BFC Partners is planning on a Spring 2018 opening date.

“Completing this major milestone keeps Empire Outlets on track for next year’s spring opening, and that plays a vital role in supporting our team’s leasing efforts as we keep attracting a wide array of retail and food and beverage tenants. As we continue moving forward with construction, Empire Outlets is generating even more interest among incredible brands that want to be part of a project that will attract millions of New Yorkers and tourists each year.” said Joseph Ferrara, principal of BFC Partners, in a statement to Real Estate Weekly.

Triple Five was busy showing off their American Dream megamall project, for which they just secured $1.67 billion in construction loans. Paul Ghermezian said leasing has been “phenomenal” at the project and that there will be “something for everyone” at the mall.

While Savills Studley’s Susan Kurland said this year’s conference felt slower than previous years, most brokers said they didn’t see a difference from last year, and that the “doom and gloom” over the retail industry is overwrought.

“It’s always busy,” said Ben Birnbaum, executive managing director at Newmark Grubb Knight Frank, who has been attending ICSC RECon for ten years. He’s working with cycling brand Peloton, which is currently looking for a production facility, and just signed tenant Watches of Switzerland in Soho.

“For me as a younger guy, a lot of technology companies are doing retail stores, so it’s not the same network as 50 to 60 year old brokers have been dealing with for the last 20 years,” said Birnbaum. “It’s new people coming into business, new ideas, new relationships.”

One thing brokers are on the same page about is urging retailers to change their game.

“I think we’re in a time of fluctuation, and retailers might want to be re-strategizing their look into  how they approach retail in general and how their business needs to change because of all the online pacing,” said Kelly Gedinsky of Winick.

For brokers, Gedinsky said in today’s retail environment, it’s all about hitting the pavement — canvassing, cold calling, and back-to-basics hard work.

“I would say as a firm, part of our culture is to really pound the pavement and I think that has helped us in this environment because we don’t rely on just leasing our stuff off signs, or pulling in the leads based on signs,” said Gedinsky.

“So we do a lot of cold calling, street canvassing and I think that benefits our activity. Especially these days, you can’t rely on just emailing. Now emailing has become so commonplace it’s too easy to press delete. You’ve got to get on the phone and get face-to-face.”

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