Real estate mogul Donald Trump cited his wife Melania as the classic 21st century shopper during his opening address of the ICSC New York Deal Making Conference on Monday
Though he conceded that the internet is a threat to retail property owners, he did not earmark it as a death sentence.
Trump told the hundreds of brokers and retailers gathered for the two-day show at the Javits Center that while Melania is no stranger to using the Internet, when she shops she prefers to “touch it and feel it.”
“For those of you that are concerned, and certainly the internet is a concern, and I see it. I think your businesses is going to be very, very strong for many, many years to come,” said Trump.
Trump staunchly defended the shopping center niche of real estate and spoke at length about the role that a particular one played in launching his career.
“It was not a good center. It had 11 stores and it had a Food Fair supermarket. The Food Fair wasn’t doing well. The 11 stores were empty for years and the location was bad. Other than that, it was a fantastic piece of property,” Trump recalled.
The center stood in Luna Park, Brooklyn and was his father’s problem. “I said Pop, let me do that center. And he had all sorts of professional guys, brokers and everybody, they couldn’t rent it.”
The failing mall sat across the street from a sizable swamp and when the head of Radio Shack came to view one of the storefronts at Donald’s urging, Trump asked him to picture what amounted to a mirage.
“Can you imagine, right across the street on that empty lot, a 60-story building, beautiful, going up? Because someday, it’s going to happen.”
“I didn’t say in 30, 40, 50 years, (and) it still hasn’t happened,” said Trump, but the point was made.
“Branding is very important and branding of a shopping center is very important,” Trump said.
The shopping center began to fill after Trump started to creatively frame it and relentlessly pursue the proper tenants. While it never quite thrived, it proved a strong enough investment to earn him the credibility to continue to bigger ventures.
Pointing out that the the US has 110,000 shopping centers providing 12 million jobs in the United States, Trump told the ICSC delegates, “I know you’re going through a little bit of a revolution with the internet. Some of you are a little concerned and some of you are a lot concerned.
“Now you need the right center and you need the right locations and you need the right everything, because (people wanting to visit physical locations) that’s never going to change.”