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During my long flight back across the country after ICSC RECon, there was a lot of time to reflect on the previous few days of jam-packed action.  For those who don’t know, ICSC RECon is the preeminent retail conference in the world bringing together over 30,000 people from real estate companies, retailers, brokerage companies and other service providers for educational sessions, keynote speakers, and above all else, DEALMAKING!

There is nowhere better to get a feel for the state of retail real estate than at this conference.  And with that in mind, here are 4 takeaways from this year’s conference:

1) Why do they even have educational sessions?

The conference brochure includes a packed schedule of educational sessions.  But let’s be honest.  This conference is not about education.  It’s about DEALMAKING.  It seemed like everyone was booked with back-to-back-to-back meetings all day every day.  Meetings to review old deals.  Meetings to get deals in progress done.  Meetings to talk about prospective deals.  Meetings to talk about other meetings.  Almost a year’s worth of work can get set up in just three short days at this conference.

2) The death of retail is a myth.

This industry is not dying.  If this conference was a funeral for the retail industry, let us all be so fortunate to be remembered with so much energy, excitement, optimism and passion.  There is far too much activity for it to fold and simply wither away.  Are there changes coming?  No doubt.  No industry can stay the same forever.  But the exciting thing is that there is an understanding of existing challenges and a commitment to embracing change.

3) The evolution of retail is real.

Look no further than two of the keynote speakers at the conference: Steve Wozniak (co-founder of Apple) and Barbara Corcoran (“Shark Tank” investor and real estate magnate).  Both are transcendent innovators.  Think that was a coincidence?  Retail real estate is evolving and doing so at a rapid speed.  This can create fear, but it also creates opportunity.  Those real estate companies and retailers that embrace the opportunity will be much better off than those that react based on fear.  Which side of this line is your company on?

4) The retail industry knows how to have fun.

The level of dealmaking at this conference is great.  But perhaps even more impressive, is that it takes place without sacrificing any of the partying.  People in the retail industry really know how to party.  The big corporate parties are top notch – such as those by pool at the Bellagio (well done New York Developers) and at the Marquee Night Club (very impressive Newmark Knight).  And the bars and gambling tables are filled up every night with people from all avenues of retail real estate.

ICSC does a great job with RECon.  If you’ve never been before, you should check it out next year.  Simply walking through the exhibit halls offers a perspective on the industry that can’t be gained anywhere else.

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