Each May, commercial real estate developers, bankers, tenants and vendors come together in Las Vegas to meet with the people who shape our business. The meetings are meaningful and are considered by some to be the most intensive business networking they do all year.
Attendance numbers at this conference are a great indicator of how the retail real estate industry is performing. This year’s attendance of 33,000 was up slightly from last year but not as dramatically as some had expected. Attendance has been as high as 50,700 in 2008 and as low as half that amount in 2009.
As I’ve attended the convention for 25 years, I’ve learned to leave a few gaps in my schedule to network with friends in the industry. The programs and meetings at this convention help me understand the drivers behind our industry, but I still get a thrill from the cultivation of new clients and closings.
Part of the news of this year’s convention headlined retailers reducing space and closing stores. Office supply dealers such as Office Depot/Office Max and Staples; clothing retailers like Coldwater Creek, Abercrombie & Fitch, and Aeropostale; and department stores including Sears and J.C. Peeny have all announced plans to close a number of their retail locations. Similar to this national trend toward retail space reduction, we have locally witnessed a consolidation of bank branches resulting in many key locations coming on the market.
Why are so many retailers shedding space and closing stores now when we think the economy has improved since the crash of 2007?
To read the full article on page 12 in the July issue of Arkansas Money & Politics, featuring Hank Kelley.