Hayes Report: ICSC’s RECon 2011

This week the International Council of Shopping Centers (ICSC) hosted the world’s largest real estate trade show in Las Vegas, and according to Hayes Commercial Group both the activity and tone at the conference reflected growing optimism in the retail real estate sector.

Michael Martz, Kristopher Roth, and Pamela Scott of Hayes Commercial Group are longtime members of ICSC and attended the Global Retail Real Estate Convention (RECon) earlier this week. “Having been to this show for so many years in a row, we have witnessed firsthand the ebb and flow of activity through the current economic cycle,” said Michael Martz. “After two or three years of weathering the storm, retailers are now looking to expand, and they are focusing on proven trade areas and coastal markets like ours.”

While attendance may not have returned to the 50,000 range seen in the heyday of 2006 and 2007, this year more than 30,000 attendees had access to more than 1,000 exhibitors spread across 1.4 million square feet of convention space, which is larger than 24 football fields.

“This year’s conference confirms that the local activity we saw at the end of 2010 was not a fluke,” said Kristopher Roth who, along with the other retail specialists at Hayes Commercial Group, completed 17 retail transactions on State Street in Santa Barbara last year, more than any other brokerage firm.

The retail specialists at Hayes Commercial predict that activity will continue to slowly improve through the balance of 2011 and into 2012. “Our current State Street listings are seeing activity and offers,” commented Michael Martz. “We expect that most of the vacancy on the 900 block will be absorbed by year-end.”

On a regional basis, Pamela Scott is seeing more activity – especially from grocery stores, general merchandise stores, fast food restaurants, cell phone stores, and drug stores who are all looking to gain a foothold in the Central Coast. “I had several meetings with retailers who have identified Santa Barbara, San Luis Obispo and Ventura Counties as target areas,” she said. “We will be working to find them sites for late 2011 and early 2012 openings.”

If the activity at this year’s RECon can be viewed as a barometer of the broader retail markets, one can expect to see several new storefronts opening for business on the South Coast and in the tri-county area in the coming year.