Beyond the Build

Construction Trends

At ICSC, Retail Shows Signs of Recovery

It’s ICSC week, always a big indicator of what’s ahead with the retail portion of our work. As reported, research and panels throughout the RECon event see growth on the horizon. The industry is breathing a slow, tentative sigh of relief.

I attended with 30,000 of “my closet friends” and felt the convention as a whole was cautiously optimistic. Compared to last year, there were definitely more people in attendance. There was more energy on the floor. This down cycle is doing its best to move upward.

I spent time with a couple of market research analysts and benefited from interesting conversations about the shopping patterns they are seeing going forward. All seem more focused than in years past. I plan to share more on this later, but for now, here are my takeaways from RECon: 

  • Tenants are going where the “puck is now” and not where the puck is going to be. This short term thinking is different than it was before what I’m calling “The Great Compression” hit.
  • Successful organizations (and people) who willing to work the details will find transactions. That said, there is certainly not as much low hanging fruit as before.
  • There is still a lot of emphasis on single tenant properties. It’s somewhat easier to get one’s arms around the economics.

As the conference closed, I circled back with a couple of attendees to see if they were on the same page. Here are takeways from our customer relationships:

  • Without a doubt, the landscape is improving.
  • Three years ago, retailers were calling saying they had to have some rent relief. This year, there is more talk of LOIs (Letters of Intent), and optimistic discussions of expansion.
  • Larger boxes and junior anchors realize that continued expansion at the fringes of metro markets is not a current sustainable strategy. Infill opportunities are becoming a focus.
  • Infill deals are more complicated and take longer to craft and execute. They require creativity and flexibility on everyone’s part, but often, they are worth it.

Did you attend ICSC RECon this year? Do you agree on the climate? What did you take away? 


Merrill Stewart Jr.

Merrill Stewart is Founder and CEO of The Stewart/Perry Company, a commercial building contractor based in Birmingham.