On December 6-7, the Javits Center played host to this years’ ICSC NY Deal Making Conference. ICSC featured a new format at this years’ Conference. In addition to the deal making opportunities on Wednesday and Thursday, ICSC partnered with retailers and leading real estate companies to present several hour long educational sessions, starting the day before the deal making sessions and continuing throughout the show. With topics ranging from omni channel retail to outlet centers to technologies disrupting commercial real estate, the Conference offered a broad range of topics. Reports were positive on the programming however many of the attendees did not plan their schedule to permit time to attend many sessions. If ICSC decides to continue the substantive programming in future deal making conferences, attendees may need to plan meetings so as to allow time to attend sessions of interest.

Notwithstanding the headwinds in our Industry, the vibe was positive and attendance was over 10,000, which exceeded last year’s conference. The Conference was located on the entire upper level of the Javits Center and a portion of the lower level where the large mall owners had their booths. This layout afforded the exhibitors and attendees ample room to walk the floor, meet other attendees and hold meetings. Those who attend the Conference on a regular basis are now pretty consistent in their support of the venue and layout of the Conference. One client from London commented that this is what he would expect a conference being held in New York to look like.

The Conference also featured Retailer Row, where over 20 retailers were available to discuss their needs and preferred projects. The Global Pavilion was front and center on the Conference floor, where retailers from other countries has small booths and tables to display their brand and talk to interested parties from the United States. The Retailers’ Runway was dropped this year, and, in its place, was the exciting RETAIL Revolution where omni-channel and international retailers presented their new concepts. There was also an Innovation Lounge where cutting edge technology was on display.

Given the changes occurring in the industry, there were meetings addressing early exit and rent relief. However there were as many meetings about new deals- redevelopment of existing shopping centers, building of large mixed use projects in several major metropolitan areas and back filling of vacant anchor boxes. There was activity with e-trailers looking for the right brick and mortar opportunities.

One of the stand-out sessions was on Food Halls. Garrick Brown, VP of Retail Research of the Americas at Cushman & Wakefield, moderated a panel of experts. Due to current popularity of Food Halls, it was no surprise that the room filled to capacity. The panel discussed the economic and operational challenges presented by Food Halls, and the ingredients for a successful Food Hall project. It boils down to the three C’s – culture, culture and commerce. And, with its life-like replica of the United States Capitol made with LEGOLAND building blocks, LEGOLAND had the most talked about display at the Conference.

There is no doubt that the next year will bring many changes in our Industry, but the Conference had a positive vibe and attendees expressed optimism about future deals and projects.