By Sarah Trefethen
“Obviously the economy is starting to reboot,” said Jim Swinteck of North Carolina. His company, SoftPlay, a provider of multi-level children’s play areas, is back at the conference for the first time in six years.
And Advanced Compactors, a Massachusetts-based provider of waste disposal machinery, is back for the first time since 2004.
“A few of our competitors went out of business, and the economy started to pick up a little and we thought it might be a little door opening that we could slip though,” said Alec Rich, a compactor salesman with a thick New England accent.
Sunday afternoon’s panel discussions and education events were standing-room only.
At one workshop on leasing and acquisitions, a group of landlords fielded a question about supermarkets.
Chris Conlon, CEO of Acadia Realty Trust, wasn’t afraid to name names when he accused some supermarkets, including A&P, Pathmark and Shaw’s, of having “really lost their way” and “staring into space” as competitors, including Fairway, Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s, continued to update their business model to meet modern consumers’ demands.
“As owners of shopping centers, we really have to be careful of that,” Conlon said.
The push and pull between internet-enabled e-commerce and traditional brick-and-mortar retail is poised to be a hot topic this year, as traditional retail tenants continue to experiment with ways to engage with the customers in both the real and virtual worlds.
“There was a time when you could go to Chuck E. Cheese and play games that you couldn’t play on the internet,” said Les Lehner, VP of real estate development for CEC Entertainment Casual.
That’s no longer the case, he said, and instead of ignoring the internet, CEC is taking its pizza-pushing mouse brand into the online world. Lehrer dared his audience to laugh at the company’s popular online potty training tool.
“If I looked at the internet solely as competitor, I’d lose,” he said.
The buzz of activity at the Las Vegas Convention Center Sunday will pick up to a roar Monday morning, and many attendees spent the day offsite in town.
Newmark Grubb Knight Frank’s Jeff Roseman tweeted his appreciation of his lunch at Mesa Grill. Many other New York brokers, including Massey Knakal’s Bob Knakal, Winick Realty’s Jeff Winick and Steve Baker and Eastern Consolidated’s Adelaide Polsinelli, were spotted poolside at the Wynn, a popular hotel for among convention-goers.
But even in the sun-soak environment of cabanas and “European style” sun bathing, the real business of RECon is never far from everyone’s minds.
One bathing suit-clad broker was observed seizing a similarly attired client’s elbow.
“It’ll be rented by Wednesday,” he said.