ICSC RECon 2016 tipped off with a keynote address by Earvin “Magic” Johnson, Chairman and CEO of Magic Johnson Enterprises and former NBA superstar. Attendance was up by about 2.7 percent from last year, with around 36,000 attendees, representing the more than 1,100 companies that registered for the sold out event. Real Estate developers from throughout the country touted new projects, while brokers and retailers hustled through the Las Vegas Convention Center halls in search of new deals. The mood of the crowd was mostly positive, reflecting a sense of cautious optimism with the current economy. At the same time, some expressed unease with the lack of visibility on the direction of buyers’ shopping habits and trends, and a feeling that there could be a pullback in upcoming quarters.

Doug Karp, President of New England Development, a premier developer of retail centers and mixed-use projects, reflected positively about this year’s show. “We had great meetings out at ICSC. The general theme from potential retail tenants was to look carefully for the right opportunities and to proceed with caution. Most retailers seemed to have limited buys and wanted to be strategic where they applied there capital. But the good news was that with good real estate, the retailers were looking to make deals. We too are cautious but optimistic about the outcome of the convention.”

Conference attendees were greeted by a new Technology Lab exhibit, a showcase of technology start-ups and their products, as they entered the main Convention Center lobby. The growing impact of technology and the dynamic nature of retail was a big theme at the formal sessions this year, with topics such as “Retail Technology Trends to Watch”, the “Future of Retail” and “Tomorrow’s Shopping Center Today”. As we have noted in several blogs in this space, the increasing impact of social media and new developments in technology and omni-channel retailing are top of mind for retailers and developers alike, as they continue to work to find common ground in this rapidly changing retail landscape.

But most attendees were not there for the formal presentations, but rather to be part of the game itself. Fit bits were buzzing everywhere, with people hitting their target step count by mid-morning as they weaved through the crowds to get from meeting to meeting. The wheeling and dealing continued late into the evenings at large after session parties, such as the New York Developer’s party poolside at the Bellagio and the Bisnow Beltway Bash at Intrigue at the Wynn, as well as numerous dinners and booth-side cocktail events.

By the time the final buzzer sounded for the show on Wednesday afternoon, all were exhausted, yet hopeful that their efforts would lead to some slam dunk deals in the near future.