My Experience at ICSC 2009

When I arrived in Vegas on Saturday, I really had no real expectations for the event. I wanted to keep an open mind. Everyone knew that attendance was going to be down. How far down was on everyone’s mind.

Sunday rolls around. I drag myself to the Convention Center (CC) to check in and to see the Retail Runway of Tenants that actually expanding. When I first walked into the CC, I thought I heard crickets chirping in the background.

After checking in, Jeff & I walked over to the Hilton for the Retail Runway show. The room was modestly filled. Unfortunate (?) news was announced that Al Gore was unable to attend. After the announcement, the runway show began.

Typical Vegas fashion; lights, video, action! Every retailer is now using video technology instead of the boring powerpoint slides. After all, these are the retailers that are expanding.

At the end of the runway show, Jeff & I were going to walk around the leasing mall, only to find out that construction for all of the booths was not complete and that the only hall that was open was the South Hall…the vendor & green tech halls.

So we headed over. Upon arrival, you could immediately tell that even the vendor hall was looking a little off from last year. I would estimate that most of the same vendors from last year were there. The good news was the Costar booth was right up front…I had to drop off my business card to see if this might be the year I could drive home in a Porsche! (I ended up driving home in my Avalanche—maybe next year??). As we continued walking around the booths, to the Green portion of the hall, it would make sense to note that walking in the hall, there was plenty of room in the walkways and vendors were eager to see people (the few walking around on Sunday) walking by. Regarding the Green portion, it was about the same size as last year. Solar, wind, lighting, water reuse, it was all there.

After walking around, we called it a day at the CC since we could not get into the leasing mall…

Monday AM, Jeff & I decide to get to CC at 8:15AM so we could get a couple of meetings before attending some of the education sessions. Foot traffic was definitely better, but no way near what it was the same time last year. Jeff took off to an appointment and I started my journey to the QSR tenants. Prior to attending ICSC, I had made contact with all of the QSR tenants and tried to setup appointments…none of them wanted to setup appointments and all said to just come by the booth. Here was my chance.

I stopped by the first QSR booth. I spoke to the AZ rep regarding a site. I was in and out of the booth in 5 minutes. I could tell that the QSR tenants were only there because “corporate” told them they had to be there. They took the information and said, “we will get back to you.” Even though they wanted to meet at ICSC (per previous email/phone conversations) to discuss the site, they were more about taking the information so they could take it back to do their analysis when they got back.

So, I moved on to the next QSR booth. I got the AZ rep. Same thing. I started thinking, is this how every QSR tenant is going to respond at the show. Are they really only here because of “corporate?”

I went to the next QSR booth. Same thing. Right then, I knew that it was going to be futile to try and have a meaningful conversation with the QSR tenants. There were 2 exceptions. I would have to say that the 2 exceptions came from fellow CCIM’s that worked for the QSR tenant! To the 2 exceptions, thank you for your time. To everyone else, I will be following up with phone calls in 2 weeks that way you will have a chance to review the information that was dropped off.

I was able to deliver the information to all of the QSR tenants in under an hour (I stopped by 20). I checked my watch…it was 9:15AM. The first education session had just started and I wanted to hear about the capital markets…the trek to the Hilton begins.

I get to the Hilton and meet up with Jeff again to listen to the presenter. There was really good information from that meeting. I began “tweeting” interesting phrases that came out of that presentation. To check out all of the “tweets” go to:

The presenter was good. He predicted the “Great Recession” to end by 10/10/2009. We will see. The biggest item, consumer confidence needs to be positive through the summer for this to occur.

After that presentation, I decided to stick around for the next session. It was a panel discussion, again centered on the current capital markets and retail. The presenter from Wall Street made an interesting comment about how the CMBS market will be back, when is the question mark. He also stated that when it does come back, the fundamentals of lending is not going to be any different than what we have already seen. Underwriting standards using real vacancy, turnover, etc. He also mentioned that lenders don’t really focus on the Loan-To-Value (LTV) but are more concerned with Debt-Coverage-Ratios (DCR). DCR makes more sense in today’s environment anyhow.

After that presentation, the “free” lunch started. The keynote speaker was Sam Zell. I didn’t stick around. I wanted to go back through the leasing mall and see clients and colleagues. Off I went.

Walking around the leasing mall, you could see a lot of empty booths. Sign of the times. The big question; how is 2010 going to be? The people that showed up in 2009, it was already in the budget before the wheels fell off.

It was great walking around. I was able to run into friends and colleagues from all over the USA. This is what a highlight was for me at ICSC. I did not see everyone from last year, I don’t know if they all went, but I did see a majority of the people that I do business with or am good friends.

After walking around and meeting with friends and colleagues, I went to my last education session, “Revolution of the Supermarket.” That was an interesting presentation. Many of the supermarket presenters have varying levels of services for the varying levels of consumers. Each one had a niche and was trying to make sure they were expanding it.

Upon the ending of that presentation, I met up with a good friend/colleague, Bill Snow over at SRS. We were able to catch up and see what each of us were working on. Bill and his counter-part Sue Hightower, both of which are CCIMs, headed over to the M&M forecast and Jeff and I headed over to the CCIM booth to meet up with other CCIMs for a happy hour.

On the way to the CCIM booth, foot traffic was starting to dwindle (after all it is time for all of the happy hour parties to begin). I ran into more friend and colleagues on the journey from South Hall to the northern part of Central Hall.

It was great seeing everyone that I have done business with in the past and friends to get caught up on what is happening in their lives. It is amazing how fast a year goes by!

If you want to hear more, give me a call or shoot me an email. I am sure I am forgetting something!

As for the nightlife in Vegas, “what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas!”