As I awaited my flight home from Las Vegas after the International Council of Shopping Centre Real Estate Convention, it struck me how critical it is to build relationships at these giant events.  

As I sat in the lounge at Las Vegas airport awaiting my flight home after my 14th International Council of Shopping Centre Real Estate Convention – otherwise known as ICSC ReCon - I started to think about how critical it is to prepare for these giant events.  

In fact it’s not worth bothering to attend if you haven’t put in the ground work.  Back in 2000 when I began coming to Las Vegas, it was tough to get meetings, really tough. Retailers weren’t interested in talking to agents from the UK about opening shops in Europe, they wouldn’t reply to my emails or phone calls, why would they need to? They have many shops to buy in the US. ICSC had always been about US retailers doing their deals across the states.  Despite a few retailers including Gap and Disney taking the plunge in Europe, crossing the pond still felt like too much of a risk.

It struck me, the relationships that I built and the time I put into those meetings turned out to be key. I had a focused approach to who I thought would make it in retail in London and then further through Europe.  It paid off; US retailers started to become more interested in our shores.

As I looked around at some of the stands and saw the amount of familiar faces, particularly from the UK, it seems that maybe it’s become fashionable to come to Las Vegas.  European Landlords come to sell their schemes along with their agents. It’s become more global, but then so has everything. This year 70 attended from the UK, whereas back in 2000 there were 5 of us.  The big agency firms seem to have brought so many, other firms do tie ups and JV’s. But where is the focus on the relationship?  That is what it is about. The Americans are great at relationships and that is what we can learn from the convention.   

The mood at the event was buoyant, more so than previous years.  US retailers remain keen on Europe - there has always been a warm bond between the two and that stays strong. Some retailers continue to expand such as Victoria’s Secret and Urban Outfitters.  Apple and Abercrombie are beginning to slow down expansion and the likes of J.Crew and American Eagle are working hard to secure more real estate.  There are still a few more US retailers looking at our shores, but the question I would ask is if the current wave is slowing? It’s cyclical like most markets. 

What we do know is that demand for London and other key European cities will remain strong for years to come.

  • James Ebel is director at Harper Dennis Hobbs