By  on May 7, 2007

Bill Clinton headlined the International Council of Shopping Centers conference in Las Vegas last May, giving a far-reaching speech that touched on the economy and went far beyond.

The former president also spoke about global warming, philanthropy and his experience raising money for victims of the 2004 Asian tsunami, which underscored the theme of individuals being able to make a difference. He clearly hit a nerve.

The best guest speakers sometimes are individuals with a depth of knowledge and experience in real estate development. Another case in point from last year's convention is Steve Wynn, president and chief executive officer of Wynn Resorts. Wynn, who talked about the early days of his career that led to the development of the Mirage. He held the audience rapt as he discussed his attention to the tiniest details when building the Wynn Las Vegas.

The ICSC conference from May 20 to 23 in Las Vegas will feature a mix of speakers, both outsiders and industry veterans. They include Tour de France champion Lance Armstrong, entertainer Ray Romano, veteran ABC News Washington correspondent Sam Donaldson and Terry Lundgren, chairman, president and ceo of Federated Department Stores.

Armstrong's address promises to be inspirational. The cyclist won the Tour de France a record seven consecutive times, from 1999 to 2005. This was accomplished after he was diagnosed in 1996 with brain and testicular cancer and underwent surgery and extensive chemotherapy.

Armstrong knows a thing or two about marketing. With Nike, he founded the Lance Armstrong Foundation in 1997. The charity's yellow rubber "Livestrong" wristbands, introduced in 2004, have been a major success, raising millions of dollars for the fight against cancer. The bracelets also spawned a fleeting fashion trend where young people wore stacks of bands on their wrists.

Romano, who starred on the CBS hit sitcom "Everybody Loves Raymond," will perform at a private dinner on Sunday to celebrate the ICSC's 50th anniversary. The dinner will benefit the ICSC Educational Foundation. A glimpse of Romano's humor can be seen on a promotional video on the ICSC Web site.

The self-professed mall rat said that he and his friend, John, "loved going on shopping sprees as teenagers. We had a great relationship with the shopping center staff. In fact they helped me train for track." Romano says this as the video shows two young kids running through a mall. "To this day, whenever I'm on the road I always stop at a shopping center no matter where I am. I can never tell how to get these things off," he says, tugging at a security tag.If Donaldson does his homework, he'll bring up issues such as copyright protection for fashion designs. A bill is before Congress and designers such as Nicole Miller were recently walking the halls trying to drum up support for it. He could also discuss trade issues such as the Bush administration's program to monitor imports from Vietnam, which has companies like Liz Claiborne and J.C. Penney in an uproar because the program could lead to higher duties on Vietnamese apparel. Of course, there's also the Democratic push for the first federal minimum wage increase in a decade, to $7.25 from $5.15 over two years.

Lundgren might choose to join in the minimum wage debate, although the subject is generally unpopular with retailers. Or he might discuss the race for online sales, global expansion or the company's transformation of Macy's into a national department store and the Sept. 9 unveiling of the nameplate at 400 locations across the country. The move has been met with apprehension by vendors whose distribution has been cut since Federated's acquisition of The May Department Stores Co. and the subsequent closing of May nameplates. In many cases, the May units were converted to Macy's, however, there was some overlap. Mall owners were affected in centers that had a Macy's and May Co. nameplate. Some shopping centers saw it as a chance to bring in another department store anchor or retailer such as Target.

The Macy's reinvention strategy entails retrofitting stores with new fitting rooms, improved lighting, wider aisles, easier-to-read signs, technology to help customers look up prices of items, plasma screens and amenities to enhance the shopping experience. The plan is to spend $4 billion between 2006 and 2008 on capital improvements, which has shopping malls smiling.

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