ICSC RECon Las Vegas 2018 Means Business – Companies and Cities look to boost their economies

CBRE at RECon 2018

LAS VEGAS, NV — Some 150 companies and organizations are exhibiting this week at RECon for the first time, helping to fill the Las Vegas Convention Center with roughly 1,265 exhibitors for this year’s trade show. This is up significantly from last year’s booth count of 1,145, says Timothy McGuinness, ICSC’s vice president of global trade expositions.

CBRE announced Monday at RECon that it has ascended to #207 position on the 2018 list of the largest U.S.-based public companies. The company has been a member of the Fortune 500 since 2008 and was ranked at #214 last year.

Companies and municipalities see RECon as being critical to their economic health: Nearly 50 municipalities have claimed booths at RECon 2018. Although public-agency attendance has fluctuated, the demand for exhibit space over the past few years has remained high, says Timothy McGuinness, ICSC’s vice president of global trade expositions.

The city of Moreno Valley, in California’s fast-growing Inland Empire region, is returning to RECon in an effort to bolster its retail offerings. This 33-year-old city with a population of 210,000 is transitioning from a bedroom community to one that is enjoying brisk rooftop and business expansion, says Mike Lee, director of Moreno Valley’s Economic Development Department. The city’s population is growing by about 5 percent annually, and restaurants in particular are zeroing in: 15 new operators opened last year, and about 20 more are in the pipeline, according to Lee.

“When you consider how tight budgets are for municipalities, counties and states, it indicates that these organizations see great value in participating at RECon,” he said. “They are looking for ways to drive their economies, and retail is one way to do that.”

Some of the new company exhibitors this year include Gold’s Gym, Popeye’s Louisiana Kitchen, Murphy USA and others.

Eatery chain Hurricane Grill & Wings decided to rent its first RECon booth this year to promote a fast-casual concept called Hurricane BTW (which stands for burgers, tacos and wings). The company seeks leasing opportunities for the new units, which occupy about 2,000-square-feet, and for the Hurricane Grill & Wings restaurants, which range from 2,000 to 6,000-square-feet.

Retailer teams from several brands that share a booth under parent company Ascena Retail Group — namely Ann Taylor, Catherines, Dress Barn, Justice, Lane Bryant, Loft, Lou & Grey and Maurices — have registered in the RECon directory as individual exhibitors for the first time this year.

Fayetteville, Ark., is exhibiting at RECon for the first time this year to boost the visibility of this college town of 83,000. Fayetteville’s young population, Ozark Mountains setting and entrepreneurial small-business climate are catching site consultants by surprise, as are neighborhoods that are either witnessing retail growth or else primed for development, says Devin Howland, director of the city’s one-year-old Economic Vitality Department.

“Retail plays a big part in building a sense of place,” Howland said, “and there’s no better place than RECon to connect with developers who you think have done admirable work in other parts of the country.”

“We’re expanding — we need to be in the show!” seems to be the common theme of exhibitors and attendees this year.

Stephen Lebovitz newly elected ICSC Chairman

Stephen Lebovitz, ICSC Chairman 2015-2016
Stephen Lebovitz, ICSC Chairman 2015-2016

Stephen D. Lebovitz, president and CEO of CBL & Associates Properties, Inc. of Milton, Mass., was elected Monday to be ICSC’s chairman for the 2015–2016 term, at ICSC’s annual meeting of members at RECon in Las Vegas. He was nominated Jan. 22 during the Board of Trustees’ midwinter meeting, in Newport Coast, Calif.

Lebovitz, along with his two brothers — Alan, the firm’s senior vice president for asset management; and Michael, who is executive vice president for development and administration — have overseen the significant growth of CBL since it went public in 1993. Today the firm boasts a nearly $10 billion market capitalization and some $4.5 billion in equity value, and a portfolio of about 80 malls or large open-air centers, plus an additional 50 smaller community, power and open-air centers.

Stephen Lebovitz is the son of Charles B. Lebovitz, CBL’s chairman, who served a term as ICSC chairman himself in 1996–’97. Lebovitz the son, ICSC’s 56th chairman, has been active in the organization since the very beginning of his career. Shortly after graduating from Harvard Business School and setting up CBL’s Northeast office, in Boston, he was invited to get involved and become the organization’s state director for Massachusetts, by ICSC Past Chairman Stephen Karp, now chairman and CEO of New England Development. Lebovitz was subsequently named ICSC’s Eastern divisional vice president and has also served as an ICSC state operations chairman, an ICSC trustee and a member of the Executive Committee. In addition, Lebovitz has been an active ICSC faculty member.

“CBL has really grown under Stephen’s leadership, despite some pretty challenging economic times,” said Michael P. Kercheval, ICSC’s president and CEO. “ICSC has similarly benefited from his insights and extraordinary energy. I am excited at the prospect of him leading our organization in the coming year.”

Before Lebovitz joined CBL, he worked summer jobs during his years at Stanford University, at such companies as JMB Realty Corp., Trammel Crow Co., and — between college and Harvard Business School — Goldman Sachs.

Lebovitz, 54, is a trustee of Milton (Mass.) Academy. He is a former director, campaign chairman and committee chairman for the Combined Jewish Philanthropies of Greater Boston and received that organization’s Edwin Sidman Leadership Award in 2014. He was president of the Jewish Family & Children’s Service from 2000 to 2002 and president of Congregation Or Atid, in Wayland, Mass., from 2010 to 2012. He is also a former member of the Trust Board of Boston Children’s Hospital.

At the Meeting of Members held in Las Vegas on Monday, new trustees were also elected to the ICSC Board of Trustees: See full press release here



ICSC: Landlord panel sees big demand for big boxes

ICSC Junior anchors, specialty grocers and international retailers are creating such demand for big boxes in open-air centers that many landlords now have the luxury of waiting for the highest and best uses to fill their rare vacancies, said a panel of developers at the ICSC Open Air Centers conference in Dallas Thursday. “It’s a good time to be in real estate,” said Lawrence Casey, president and COO of Costa Mesa, Calif.–based Donahue Schriber.

Though there is some new construction under way — about 35 million square feet of retail annually, versus 150 million square feet before the recession — most developers are content to reposition, retenant and expand existing shopping centers, said Conor Flynn, president and COO of Kimco Realty Corp. “You’ve got to be able to unlock that value and do more to strengthen the asset.” Recapturing space from struggling retailers such as Kmart has become a more common practice as demand from a growing universe of expanding retailers escalates, Flynn said. “If you do get a box back, you are going to get the pick of the litter.”

To be sure, the easing of gas prices is freeing up some consumer money, but “the shopper appears to be smart enough this time around to know this is a temporary situation,” said Christopher Conlon, executive vice president and COO of Acadia Realty Trust. If anything, additional spending power is showing up at the grocery checkout counter, said Flynn. “They are buying steak instead of chicken,” he said.

A big priority for Federal Realty Investment Trust is making doubly sure its grocery anchors are on top of their game, said Chris Weilminster, the firm’s executive vice president of real estate and leasing. Since boomers and Millennials make up 51 percent of grocery customers, catering directly to their changing needs is a must, he said. Weilminster cited one expert who said the current 1 percent of grocery trade that is done online could rise to 7 percent by 2023.

Conlon says conventional grocers are under siege from specialty grocers, convenience stores and other venues that sell competing products, and he cautioned landlords not to expect too much from them going forward. “If these grocers don’t have a well-established plan of how to deal with all the changes, they are at risk.” In the food-service arena, national restaurants are expanding rapidly, said Flynn. “It seems like you see a new one every week that wants to double or triple their store count, and they are willing to pay for visibility,” he said.

Junior anchors are no longer dependent on big-box super anchors to sway their real estate decisions, said Flynn, and Weilminster concurs. “They are making smart decisions, and they aren’t being pushed around by Wall Street like they were before the recession,” Weilminster said. With cap rates still depressed, most acquisitions are not being seriously pursued, Weilminster said — although Acadia Trust is a little more active in acquisitions where it can add significant value, according to Conlon.

One ought not seek too many new retail projects in the near future, Flynn said, because the costs and the yields are not supporting that. “But the retailer demand is there,” he said. “They’d love to see it.”