By  on May 25, 1994

LAS VEGAS -- From an alliance between store owners and interactive TV shopping to the prospect of slot machines adding their bells and whistles to those of cash registers, fanciful visions of futuristic retailing were conjured here last week.

It was the annual spring leasing convention of the International Council of Shopping Centers and it brought 21,000 retailers, developers and investors to this desert city where fantasy, fortune and failure are all equal partners.

The mood at the four-day conference, which ended Thursday and was held at the Las Vegas Convention Center, was a mix of confidence and caution. Many retailers and developers agreed that the economy is rebounding, but others warned that the retail field is overdeveloped and will become more competitive than ever.

Publicly, executives here discussed industry issues; privately, they were making deals for new store locations. The dramatic decrease in shopping center development in the past few years has apparently not dimmed the enthusiasm for deal-making. Indeed, the most lasting image of this year's convention might well be a developer or retailer pacing the corridors of the convention center, spelling out details of a deal to the home office over a cellular phone.

Following are some of the convention highlights.

  • Many retailers here predicted that a developed interactive home shopping industry was 10 years away, and some said that could be a part of their overall retail store strategy. Leslie Wexner, chairman and chief executive officer of The Limited Inc., said shopping center retailers could use computer technology to get consumers into the stores.
"I think there's a wonderful opportunity for stimulating retail marketplace sales by using the media," said Wexner. "So, for somebody sitting at the end of their PC, I think I will be able to figure out how to say, 'Come to the store; if you come here something good will happen to you or you will get some benefit.' I don't necessarily have to be the victim."
  • The smokeless mall is a growing trend. The ICSC predicts that at least one-third of the nation's 1,800 enclosed malls will be smoke-free by the end of the year. The Simon Property Group said all of its 70 enclosed malls will be smoke-free by July 1. In Arkansas, all nine regional malls banned smoking in public areas as of May 14.
Bernard Brennan, chairman and ceo of Montgomery Ward, criticized President Clinton's proposed health care overhaul. Brennan, who also is chairman of the National Retail Federation, argued that the President's proposal to have employers pay for much of the costs for their employees' health insurance would have a "devastating" affect on retailers and developers.

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