CBRE's head of retail consultancy, Jonathan De Mello, takes us through the events of an exciting second day at the global shopping centre market conference in Las Vegas.
"It was a real mission to get out of bed at 5am on Monday morning, following the 10-hour flight the day before and consequent heavy jet lag. However, I am glad I did given the hundreds of delegates that were waiting in the conference room for the panel session at 7am when I got into the convention centre! Americans take the adage of work hard/play hard to new extremes, with many of them looking rather the worse for wear after a big night on the Vegas Strip, but still very much there and ready to do business on what must have been only a few hours sleep the next day.
It was great to be part of the panel session with some good questions put to us by the moderator on omni channel, the future of retail, property investment, innovation and other topics. As I was representing European retail, questions on the Eurozone inevitably came up, linked to retailers' current appetite for expansion within and beyond the European marketplace. It is clear listening to the other panellists that retail faces similar challenges around the world, though each country/region has its own particular issues, such as import duties in Brazil discouraging retailers to invest there, or lack of quality infrastructure in India, which presents significant logistical challenges.
Overall though the mood at the session and also during the first day of RECon itself was upbeat. Attendance numbers are well up on previous years and currently tracking ahead of pre-2008 levels. Delegates here, whilst mindful of the lessons learnt post-Lehman, seem to be looking forward to the future with positivity. The key word being used here is 'growth' in contrast to an extent with the UK where business sentiment seems to be a little less upbeat at present. However, it is only a matter of time - given how closely linked the UK and Europe are to the US - before that positivity begins to permeate into UK retail. It's about time too given we are currently in one of the longest downturns in the economic cycle since records began!
The convention centre itself is hugely impressive, with some opulent stands on display. There are three separate areas spread over the 1m sq ft exhibition space - each one of which could comfortably accommodate the entirety of the Mapic 'bunker.' Today was very much about pre-arranged client meetings as given the sheer size of the venue randomly bumping into people you hope to meet simply isn't feasible in the way it is at BCSC, Mapic or any of the European conferences. CBRE alone have brought circa 800 delegates from around the world, which gives you an idea of the scale of the event. My meetings today were very much back to back, and mainly with retailers - many of which aren't currently present in the UK and Europe but are interested in the market, or have a fledgling presence but want to expand further. Some good new names coming to a retail centre near you soon - watch this space!"