Jesse Tron ICSC RECon Hartman SimonsBelieve it or not, May is just around the corner. That means it’s almost time for one of the commercial real estate industry’s most important annual events: the International Council of Shopping Centers’ (ICSC) RECon convention in Las Vegas.

We recently got a chance to speak with Jesse Tron, a senior communications and media specialist with ICSC, about what awaits the retail industry at this year’s show.

HS: What are some of the notable changes to RECon planned for this year?

Tron: While a show of this magnitude will always have some variable components each year, we are pleased to announce, for 2012, what is truly a major new feature at RECon: the Marketplace Mall. The Marketplace Mall will be the new, exclusive home for product and service providers at RECon, all on one show floor. With more than 300 exhibiting companies, a Product Demo Theatre, the Social Media and Technology Pavilion, a cash-and-carry café, the only free Wi-Fi on any of the show floors and on-site registration, the Marketplace Mall will be a destination unto itself.

The other major new feature is the Cities of the World Pavilion. Located on the Leasing Mall floor, the pavilion will afford attendees the opportunity to visit with economic development officials from more than 60 cities and counties to discuss new or existing opportunities in their communities. 

HS: There is a lot going on in the retail industry these days. What are some of the key issues and trends addressed by the show's educational sessions?

Tron: One of the major concepts at play right now is the globalization of retail and the impact of that on the industry. There has been a concerted effort by retailers and retail property developers to maximize profits by taking advantage of untapped markets. So while asset management is what’s on the agenda for mature markets, there are still significant growth opportunities for retailers and landlords in emerging ones. A session on Tuesday morning at RECon will discuss this topic and introduce the ICSC World Summit, a conference held every five years to consider the role the industry plays in our economies and societies and how best to shape the industry’s future. The World Summit, this year focusing on the globalization of retail, will be held in Shanghai from Sept. 11-14.

HS: Tell us about the show's lineup of keynote speakers. Which one are you most excited about hearing?

Tron: We have an incredible lineup this year overall, but I am particularly excited about Malcolm Gladwell and Leslie Wexner. Gladwell, bestselling author of “What the Dog Saw," “Outliers,” “Blink, and “The Tipping Point,” will take a look at new concepts in the social sciences and show how they can be practical and applicable in the business arena. He will speak at the opening session on Sunday, May 20, at 1 p.m.

Leslie Wexner, founder of Limited Brands, will be the keynote speaker on Tuesday, May 22, at 12:30 p.m. He founded Limited Brands in 1963 with a single store and has since then built the brand into a $10 billion segment leader. Wexner last spoke at RECon 25 years ago, so it will be interesting to hear the changes he has noticed within the industry over that period as well as what his expectations are for the future.

HS: How many attendees and exhibitors are you expecting this year and how do those numbers compare to 2011?

Tron: We are once again expecting about 1,000 exhibitors, and the show will encompass more than 1 million square feet of space in the Las Vegas Convention Center. Attendance in 2011 was just more than 30,000. We are currently running ahead of last year at this time, so we anticipate that attendance will end up slightly higher than last year, perhaps just north of 31,000.

(To download the 2012 RECon program, visit the show's website.)