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ICSC RECON 2019: In Pursuit of Innovation

The Las Vegas Convention Center hosted ICSC RECon 2019 this week from May 19-22. This year’s conference was held under the motto “Less traditional. More Innovative”, reflective of the dynamic changes taking place in the retail real estate industry. True to this motto, the future of retail was on display in all corners of the Convention Center.

Like last year, RECon attendees entering Central Hall were greeted by the Innovation Exchange, an interactive exhibit showcasing a broad range of new technologies and companies that are reshaping the in-store retail shopping experience through advancements in virtual reality, artificial intelligence and robotics. A new feature of this year’s Innovation Exchange was a rotating panel discussion, where key players in the industry discussed topics ranging from conquering the last mile to advances in big data collection and related privacy concerns.

Another addition to this year’s show was a Health & Wellness Center, where medical and fitness professionals could connect with landlords and brokers. This new destination on the show floor is reflective of the growing trend of incorporating non-retail tenants, such as medical office, health spa, fitness center and other service-oriented tenants, into shopping and lifestyle centers. As landlords struggle to fill big box retail vacancies, and tenants battle against the Amazons, more and more retail properties are becoming places where people have experiences and not just make traditional retail purchases. The presence of this Health & Wellness Center also exemplifies the strength of retailers focused on fitness, beauty and personal care, such as spas, juice bars, yoga studios and other niche fitness concepts in today’s marketplace.

The future of retail was also on display in North Hall. There, the Retail in Focus exhibit highlighted certain Emerging Brands and Specialty Retail providers that were born on-line, but are moving into the world of brick-and-mortar. Increasingly, these digitally native brands are seeing the benefits of having a physical presence for marketing and customer-relationship purposes. Adjacent to these exhibits were several interactive games and activities. A company called Glice, an ecological skating rink concept, set up a mini rink, including a professional skater, to showcase its energy-free skating surface. There was a Marvel Adventure Lab, where attendees could take a picture and transform into their favorite superhero. These features added a sense of energy to the show and was reflective of the increasingly interactive nature of the retail shopping experience.

Attendees of this year’s conference enjoyed the programming offered, including the kick-off presentation by former Dallas quarterback Tony Romo on Sunday. Several attendees suggested ending the conference a day earlier than usual next year, as most of the activities and meetings have shifted to Sunday through Tuesday. All in all, the consensus was that in order for the future of retail to remain vibrant, landlords and tenants alike must work together to pursue innovation and change in the brick-and-mortar world of retail real estate.