NEW YORK — The International Council of Shopping Centers' 2007 New York National Conference and Deal Making lived up to its name despite the troubling economic news that's been affecting other regions of the country.
"What was surprising was that business was booming," said Lisa Rosenthal, a broker at Ripco Real Estate. "Deals were getting done. It was bigger than last year in terms of attendance and there were more booths than last year. The economy is precarious in other parts of the country, but rents are getting higher here."
The activity came as a tragedy unfolded Wednesday in Omaha, Neb., where a gunman killed eight people in the Von Maur department store at the Westroads Mall and then killed himself. "This is definitely a competitive industry, but everyone's thoughts are with the victims, the people who work at the center and the ownership of the center," said Malachy Kavanagh, vice president of communications for the International Council of Shopping Centers. "The center and its owner [General Growth Properties] will evaluate with security staff and the local police what worked in terms of an emergency plan and what can be improved upon."
Some centers, he added, could react right away by increasing their own security and requesting a greater police presence to put shoppers at ease through this holiday season.
Kavanagh said the industry collectively works on security issues through the ICSC security subcommittee that meets every March, but is planning an additional meeting in January to evaluate the incident and other security issues.
"I wouldn't say these kinds of incidents are on the rise," Kavanagh said. "This was not an attack on the center or the industry. This was an individual who decided to make a very public, impactful and horrific display of his despair and chose the center because people have a connectivity to it."
As the incident reverberated through the ICSC, the economy wasn't far from the minds of the 8,600 retailers, property owners and real estate brokers who attended the convention at the Hilton New York & Towers Dec. 3 to 5.
"I was pleasantly surprised," Jeffrey Roseman, executive vice president of Newmark Knight Frank, said about the tenor of the conference. "It was busy. Everybody seemed as aggressive as in the past few years. Clearly, there was some discussion about what's going on in the world. But it was unanimous that New York City remains somewhat insulated to what's happening in the rest of the country."
Roseman said he left the convention with offers and briefs from retailers. "I've been to ICSC conferences before that have been a bit more downtrodden," he said. "Retailers are encouraged that the banks have slowed down [their expansion] and that they won't have to compete for those corners anymore."
According to brokers, retailers in expansion mode included Tommy Hilfiger, J. Crew, BCBG Max Azria, Target, Kohl's and TJ Maxx. "The Apple reps were at ICSC," said a broker who requested anonymity. "Brooks Brothers was also there." Modell's and Daffy's are looking for space in New York City and Nike is said to be interested in finding a location in Times Square.
"In New York, retail sales seem to be very good, fueled by tourists," said Robin Abrams, executive vice president of Lansco Corp. "Luxury brands seem to be performing well and the nationals are doing well here, but in the middle of the country things are a little bit different."
While Abrams found the convention upbeat, the specter of a slowdown was raised. "It was well attended, very vibrant and energetic and a lot of business actually seemed to be accomplished," she said. "But the convention was the first place I heard people talk about setbacks and the word 'recession' was actually uttered by some. People are wondering how the home mortgage crisis and [credit] card debt is going to impact retail sales."
Richard Brickell, senior vice president of Joseph P. Day Realty Corp., which owns properties in the Grand Central Terminal area and 366 Fifth Avenue, said, "The people on the front lines, [building] owners and people in the apparel and accessories business, see a slowdown. There are people who feel that New York City is insulated. I disagree. We all have to have a very cautious but opportunistic outlook about the city's resiliency. The world has changed since mid-July. As owners, we have a Depression-era philosophy. We look for creditworthy tenants and don't fight for the last dollar."
Peter Ripka, partner in Ripco Real Estate, said, "There is no doubt the conference was busy and there is also no doubt that people were there to discuss expansion plans. Many retailers are very strong and one poor Christmas isn't going to stop them. Everyone knows that consumer patterns may be changing and subprime mortgages are creating problems, but we'll figure it out. The retail real estate supply is still tight. I haven't seen rents come down yet. Tourism is such a great thing in Manhattan. There is always something to keep this city going."
“I think what’s so interesting about the #MeToo movement and this whole new wave of feminism in general, is that women are finally seeing, ’Oh I can start my own company, oh I can lear to code, oh I can leave my nine-to-five job and do the thing I want to do,” said @brooklyndecker ahead of her @sxsw talk for @createcultivate. The former model took the stage to share wisdom about networking and female-driven entrepreneurship. #wwdeye #sxsw (📷: @jgreenery)
“I was making the guacamole when my scout saw me,” says model @stuckinteenage on being discovered just six months ago while working at @chipotlemexicangrill. Since then Williams has signed with @dnamodels, walked in her first show at @calvinklein and landed on the cover of @vogueitalia – a high point of any model’s career. To read @lisajlockwood’s full interview with the model on her experiences thus far, head to WWD.com – link in bio. (📷: George Chinsee)
“I love the idea of dialogue, period. It’s where I’ve always gotten my inspiration from: hearing other women speak, their journeys and their paths,” said @hereisgina, who delivered the keynote speech at the @sxsw conference for @createcultivate, the online platform and conference series for women. For her two panels, Rodriguez chose female empowering, female-led and female entrepreneurs to focus on. Head to WWD.com to read more about her thoughts on Time’s Up, growing up in a family of women and why we “need a girls’ club.” #wwdeye #sxsw (📷: @jgreenery)
Leading luxury brand are shaking things up to keep up with streetwear. Case in point: the arrival of @mrkimjones as artistic director of @diorhomme. Jones, who succeeds @Kris_Van_Assche, is seen as one of the handful of designers who can actually straddle the luxury and streetwear worlds — which could lead to even more changes at established brands. What could this mean for the rest of the menswear landscape? Head to WWD.com to find out what experts predict #wwdfashion (📷: @franckmura)
“It’s like buying groceries. You’re going to buy the best mango, the best mozzarella, the best things. You have to, or others are going to take it all,” said @gabrielahearst on why she uses only the finest fabrics. Last week, Hearst received her first @cfda nomination for Womenswear Designer of the Year, and earlier this month she opened a permanent showroom in Paris. To read @jessiredale’s interview with the designer and find out why this is shaping up to be a big year for her, head to WWD.com. #wwdfashion (📷: @francoisgoize)
“It’s an interesting thing, playing a younger version of your mother. It’s an interesting concept. I adore my mom and love her in every capacity, but it was just something that had never crossed my mind,” says @anniemstarke on playing a young Joan Castleman in “The Wife.” The same role will be played by her mother Glenn Close. Read more about her growing up in the film industry as the daughter of producer John H. Starke and Close and what she has planned for the future #wwdeye (📷: @nataliamantini)
@asics is launching a new streetwear sneaker inspired by its latest ambassador, @steveaoki. The Hyper-Kenzen x Aoki, which will launch at @footlocker stores exclusively tomorrow, is a slip-on style that incorporates the brand’s proprietary Gel technology through beads integrated into the midsole for comfort and endurance. Read the full story on WWD.com.