RECon 2018 Recap

The excitement of the NHL playoff success of the Las Vegas Golden Knights was everywhere in ‘Sin-City’ and that winning teamwork momentum cast its spell onto the RECon 2018 Convention. I attend the annual convention in Las Vegas every year and the convention, the largest commercial real estate event in the world, did not disappoint.

As a 43-year veteran or ‘industry elder’ in the retail real estate industry, having worked as a shopping centre manager, marketing director, landlord leasing executive and now a retail broker, I was looking for a little inspiration, motivation and some insight and analysis into the disruption currently facing the industry. This annual convention is an investment in my career and as a life-long student of retail real estate, I enjoyed the three major keynote speakers and the educational sessions that were particularly rich with knowledge and information. The scale of our industry as a global enterprise is obvious on the 800,000-square foot Deal Making floor at the Las Vegas Convention Centre where I keep my transactional network of contacts current, meet senior level real estate executives on neutral ground at the industry corporate cocktail parties and at ICSC events in what I call ‘accidental collisions’. I remember standing at the ICSC Diversity reception two years ago and the person next to me was the Chairman of WalMart worldwide. She was about to speak to the assembled professionals and we had a nice chat during our ‘accidental collision’ about retail, hockey, and skiing at Lake Louise in Alberta. We exchanged cards. How random was that?   

As a judge for the 2018 ICSC Foundation scholarships I particularly enjoyed meeting this year’s recipients and spending some mentoring time with these next generation professionals at the Talent Development Pavilion on trade floor. Part of my ICSC Ambassador role involves mentoring one-on-one with the many student’s attending the Convention.

This year, my key message to these aspiring retail real estate professionals was on being part of a team. Success comes when you are part of a team, working in sync with others, just like the Golden Knights have done this NHL season. Teamwork is the key to a productive career. The most common question from the students was, “How do I get started on my retail real estate career?” My advice is to attach yourself to a retail real estate project, become part of a team on an entry level and work your butt off. I was impressed by the students that I met, and I have to say that the future of our industry is positive.

Canada was well represented at RECon 2018 with around 370 attendees working the trade floor with a few enjoying the Canadian cocktail reception at the Alto bar in Caesars Palace on the Monday evening.

Unfortunately, I did not see many of my fellow Canucks, especially the Next Generation category, in the educational and professional development sessions - I guess they must know it all? These educational sessions are included in the cost of registration of the Convention. For all industry professionals under 30 years of age who this year were sitting in the casino, by the pool or golfing, instead of attending the Professional Development Day, next year why not enhance your retail real estate brains and drive your career horizons with a little industry learning?

It just could be the difference between your long-term career success or becoming mired in a quagmire of professional mediocrity while you turn into a robotic corporate, broker, leasing or management drone tutored by stale, male and pale predecessors.

The industry already has enough mindless corporate zombies that perpetuate some of the most boring, uninspired, out-date, cookie-cutter development, management and leasing practices that have negatively impacted retail real estate across the country!

Prove me wrong young people, expand your knowledge through the new ICSC certification for the well-rounded retail real estate professional – The CRRP – Certified Retail Real Estate Professional. Find out more at  And keep cheering for the Las Vegas Golden Knights, the perfect example of work ethic and teamwork in a generation. Remember; “Forecheck, backcheck, pay-cheque”

For those of you who did not attend RECon 2018, here are a few nuggets of knowledge, speaker quotes, intel and trends that I picked up at the Convention and am happy to share:

“The ongoing, over-simplified media narrative on the perceived ‘Retail Armageddon’ will run its course and fade away. Last year only 5.2 percent of retail sales in the U.S. were generated by pure-play on-line retailers according to ICSC. Brick & mortar stores account for the rest.” 

There are many challenges facing the retail real estate industry in this era of highly disruptive evolution and no doubt that there is lots of pain in this fast moving 21st century economy.  The past year was described by many as like “pushing a boulder up a hill”

America has 23.6 percent square feet of retail space per capita, Canada, 16.7 percent and the United Kingdom 4.5 percent. The question at the Conference was; “Is America over-retailed or under-demolished?”

Speaker quotes: “The future of retail real estate is built on solid ground”, “The concept of shopping centers is shifting from; retail real estate selling things to consumer engagement spaces”, “Millennials will pay more for a retail experience”, “Our industry was built with hustle, grit and entrepreneurial spirit”, “Short term retail is here to stay with pop-ups and short-term tenants with one to three year lease terms or less”.   

The Asset classes of retail real estate are being re-defined as:  Destination Centres (think regional shopping centers),
Retaildential Properties (formerly mixed-use with retail/residential),
Concept Centres (Asian art mall/themed/experiential),
Innovation Centers (think tech clusters or other sectors),
Every class will feature social gathering spaces.

Keywords throughout the Conference – ‘personalization’, ‘community based’, ‘change before you have to’.
Food and beverage sales in shopping centers are exploding, up 25.9 percent over that past four years. A leasing trend to watch.
Community based retailing is gaining momentum in venues like farmers markets with social engagement spaces. Think microbreweries, wine bars, book stores/cultural spaces.



Michael L. Kehoe is the Broker/Owner of Fairfield commercial Real Estate based in Calgary and member of Consumer Real Estate Canada.