ICSC Here We Go 2021 Recap

Hello Investors!

I just got back from the ICSC “Here We Go 2021” event earlier this week, held from December 6-7 at the Las Vegas Convention Center.  ICSC, which is the trade organization of the retail industry, traditionally holds its largest event of the year in May, called RECon. RECon was canceled in 2020 and 2021 due to COVID, but they held a smaller-scale event this past week.

A few months ago, I wasn’t sure if it would be worth it to attend, but I’m really glad I did. I had a very productive show. I had the opportunity to meet with many local city representatives whom I haven’t seen in over a year and a half, to get updated on new commercial real estate developments happening in their cities.  I compile the information in newsletters and share them with my clients. If you’d like a report on Corona, Norco, Ontario, Chino, Montclair, or Pomona, contact me and I’ll send you a copy.

In addition, I met with several developers who talked about their future plans and what they’re looking for in terms of acquisition targets.  I also learned about new tenants expanding into our marketplace.


On top of that, it was nice to spend some time with some of my colleagues at Progressive, who I don’t get to see very often since many of us are working remotely most of the time.

I noticed quite a few differences from this show compared to years past.


First of all, it was a much smaller event. There were about 9,100 registered attendees, as opposed to the usual 30,000 plus. Because of this, the event was moved to a different venue – the new West Hall of the Las Vegas Convention center rather than the usual North and South Halls. This meant that exhibitors were shuffled from their usual locations where they may have been used to exhibiting for decades. As a point of comparison, the North Hall and the upper level of the South Hall, where RECon is held, total about 873,000 square feet.  The West Hall, where this year’s event was held, is about 600,000 square feet.

So even though there were about 1/3 of the attendees, there was about 2/3 the amount of space as usual.  I think this was done intentionally to help with social distancing.  COVID is still active, and even though all attendees were required to submit proof of vaccination, having things a bit farther apart certainly helps prevent the spread of the virus.  But because of this, the show just seemed a lot more sparse than in years past.  In 2019, when I showed up at 9 am on Monday, the entrance to the show had a lot of people coming in.


This year at 9 am on Monday, while the food court outside the show was pretty busy, it just seemed pretty empty on the show floor. Face masks were being worn by some people, but definitely very few.  The vast majority of attendees were maskless.

Another way to compare the size of the show is by how many steps I walked!  The first day of the show, Monday, is the day I always do the most walking.  This year, I covered 16,423 steps on Monday.
In 2019, I walked 17,137 steps on the Monday of the show.


So even though the show was more compact this year, I did almost as much walking!

How many steps did you walk?  You might not know it, but your iPhone is probably logging your steps.
Just open the health app to see if it’s tracking your steps, and to see how many steps you took today.

I enjoyed having everything in one hall this year.  The show was a lot more manageable to see all of the exhibitors.  I could get from one end of the show to the other with a 5-minute walk.  No need to hustle from one end of the convention center in the North Hall, catch the golf cart, and sprint upstairs to the South Hall.


In years past, there were dozens of panel sessions and breakout rooms in various locations of the conference center.  This year, there were just a few sessions all held in the ICSC booth, which got packed to the standing room only. In these sessions, industry executives talked about many of the trends that we’ve seen in the media, and what I’ve tried to talk about on this channel, such as many retailers shrinking their footprints, and increased reliance on drive-thrus and convenience.

Aside from the usual exhibitors of brokerages, REITs, and vendors, some of the new interesting concepts I saw were technology-related.  And since I’m a tech geek, of course, I stopped by to learn more. There were several companies leveraging technology to help brokers and principals with real estate decisions. The pandemic taught us that more than ever, location is critical for a business to survive. Placer.ai, who I’ve mentioned several times in my videos, had a large booth at the show. I mentioned before that your phone is tracking the number of steps you take. Well, it’s also tracking where you go. Placer.ai uses this information and aggregates it.

This information can be used to figure out where a certain store’s customers live, or how much foot traffic a store gets. Foot traffic can be used to approximate store sales. There were several other competitors of Placer.ai at the show, too, and a couple of other mapping software solutions. This type of technology wasn’t even available at the last RECon.


I also met a developer building a mixed-use project in Ohio, and to attract potential tenants to their project, they created a 3d model that you could virtually walk through using an Oculus 3D virtual reality headset.  I gave it a shot and it was a world of difference from looking at a rendering on a computer screen or paper, or even a Matterport 3d virtual tour.

In their virtual model, I could turn my head or body around 360 degrees and look up and down and walk around, and there was no lag between what my head did and what my eyes saw.  Granted, the images were still computer graphics and not completely photorealistic, but I felt like I was right there in the center of the action.  I think it was a great use of technology and I expect to see a lot more of it in the future by developers trying to sell a vision that others may not be able to visualize.  Let me know if you’d like an introduction to the developer that created this 3D model.

The West Hall is new to Las Vegas and so is the Tesla Loop, which is a tunnel connecting the West Hall to the North Hall, built by Elon Musk’s Boring Company.

At the end of Day 1, my colleagues and I hopped inside a Model Y for a quick underground trip.  The ride was free, and there was no line to ride, probably because not many people even know that this tunnel even exists.  In case you’re wondering, there was a driver – the car wasn’t autonomous.  But I believe that the future plans of the company are to have driverless Teslas shuttle people back and forth.

On the morning of day 2 of the show, Tuesday, the show was pretty empty.  It wasn’t too different from a typical Wednesday at RECon.  Having had most of my meetings on Monday, I had a pretty light Tuesday, but I did make sure to go to the Costar booth to enter my name into the drawing into their contest.  As usual, Costar had sweepstakes. In the past, they gave away a new Tesla car. This year, it was a trip to stay at the Four Seasons in Maui.  And in case you’re wondering; no, I didn’t win the trip.

So overall, I had a very productive show, and everyone I spoke to, without exception, agreed that it was worthwhile to attend. There’s just no amount of Zoom or phone calls that can replace face-to-face interaction; and the smaller size made it feel a bit more intimate.

ICSC has confirmed that the RECon show will be back in 2022, on the same dates as usual, which is the Sunday through Wednesday before Memorial Day. That’s May 22-25, 2022.

Mark your calendars, and I hope to see you then.

Thank you for reading!  I’ll see you next time.

Connect with me here:
Website:  https://mikelincre.com
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Email: mike@progressiverep.com

Mike Lin, CRE