Believe it or not, we’re just a little more than a week away from the International Council of Shopping Centers’ (ICSC) RECon convention, which will be held from May 18-20 in Las Vegas. Therefore, we thought it was the perfect time to chat with Jesse Tron, manger of communications for ICSC. Jesse is responsible for the organization’s communications, public relations and branding, and is also a spokesman for the association. You can follow him on Twitter @JesseTronPR.

Tron Headshot B&WHS: What are some of the key retail issues and trends addressed by this year's RECon educational sessions?

Tron: Omni-channel retailing is very much at the forefront of industry discussions. The industry now has a better understanding of e-commerce and its role in the retail landscape. Several years ago, there was some uncertainty regarding what e-commerce might mean for physical retail. It has become clear that it is not the detractor that some thought.

Currently, e-commerce accounts for just 6 percent of total retail sales, or roughly $263 billion. In-store retail accounts for 94 percent of sales, or roughly $4.3 trillion. That said, the industry is recognizing all of the advantages that omni-channel retailing has to offer — for instance, there are studies that found customers that shop both in-store and online spend more and shop more often at that retailer overall. Furthermore, net sales increase when consumers are given the option to purchase online and return in-store versus only being able to return remotely.

Our latest consumer survey found that 35 percent of consumers have purchased online and returned the purchase in-store and that nearly half of consumers have made an online purchase that they have picked up at a physical store. The survey also found that even though the vast majority of purchases are done in-store, over one-third of consumers use the Internet to research products before they go into the store to buy. So omni-channel retailing will continue to be a valuable part of any retail strategy going forward and will certainly be discussed at length during ICSC RECon.

HS: Tell us about the show's lineup of keynote speakers. Is there one that you are particularly excited about hearing?

Tron: We have a great lineup this year, and I am excited for all of them, but if I had to pick one, it would be our opening keynote: Biz Stone, co-founder of Twitter, who will speak Sunday afternoon (May 18) at 4:15 p.m.

The other keynotes this year are: Brad Meltzer, host of “Brad Meltzer’s Decoded” on The History Channel and New York Times best-selling author; Michael T. Duke, chairman of the executive committee of Wal-Mart Stores Inc.’s board; and Jean Chatzky, financial editor of NBC’s “Today” and New York Times best-selling author.

HS: What are some of the new show features planned for RECon 2014?

Tron: One of the most interesting and exciting new additions is certainly the ICSC Coca-Cola “Happiness Lounge,” which is where digital, mobile and social platforms will be transformed into unified online marketing strategies (and where attendees will be transformed from tired and stressed to rested and happy!). Whether you are looking to take the initial plunge into digital platforms, find out the latest trends that will be shaping marketing strategy in the coming months or are just in need of a quick pick-me-up, the “Happiness Lounge” at RECon is the go-to destination.

Another exciting change is that, starting this year, we are moving the Lower Level of South Hall exhibitors to the North Hall. With the Marketplace Mall, part of the Leasing Mall, registration and educational sessions all operating out of the North Hall, this is shaping up to be a high-traffic exhibition area. The Upper Level of South Hall will continue to be a popular destination with its numerous retail exhibitors as well.

Also for the first time ever, we are bringing the MAXI Awards to RECon. The MAXI Awards honor innovative events, programs, campaigns and technology that are vital to shopping center success. They are the premiere marketing awards in the industry, and their new home at RECon will provide marketing professionals with the platform to showcase their endeavors to the largest gathering of industry professionals in the world.

Lastly, look out for the ICSC and Coca-Cola #MyStepsCount App, which will be available in the App Store starting May 17. As you may know, RECon covers more than 1 million square feet of space, which is the perfect springboard to getting you back on stride (see what I did there?). With the #MyStepsCount App you can track your steps during the show, compete with your friends and earn prizes!

HS: How many attendees and exhibitors are you expecting this year, and how do those numbers compare to 2013?

Tron: We have well over 1,000 exhibitors this year, up from 2013. Last year, there were about 32,600 attendees. Registration for 2014 has been tracking ahead throughout the year, and we expect to surpass 33,000 for this year’s show.

HS: We usually limit these Q&A’s to four questions, but we’ll ask another one this week: is there anything else you’d like to add?

Tron: Just make sure you join the conversation by following @ICSC_RECon on Twitter and use #RECon14, and I’ll see you out in Vegas!