Meridian Capital Group

“Hot girl real estate” reigns at ICSC, Covid be damned

May 24, 2022

Storefront leasing is still recovering but the vibes at the world’s biggest retail conference reveal a Covid-blind optimism is in the air.

The Wynn Resort poolside parties Sunday — the unofficial pregame to the ICSC conference in Las Vegas — were awash with brokers, investors, developers and some conference newbies eager to get down to business and debauchery after a three-year hiatus from the May event.

Perched in a tree overlooking Meridian’s two cabanas was an African hawk-eagle, which was initially on display for photos but had evidently escaped from its handler who could only be described as way too blasé to be in charge of an African hawk-eagle. Perhaps the raptor had its eye on the kosher catering and free swag at Meridian’s party.

Meridian’s spread drew the biggest crowd of the real estate cabanas, with everyone from a 21-year-old part-time broker to firm presidents mixing it up over free Casamigos cocktails. President of retail leasing James Famularo was surrounded by a gaggle of young brokers, eager to set up a lunch before he could light up his cigar.

The pandemic turned so many restaurants into cavities that Famularo is now seeing an uptick in restaurant leasing. Leasing in a space already outfitted with deep fryers and cooktops can cut a tenant’s costs and move-in time.

At Northwood’s cabana, the talk was about first-generation retail stores from online-native brands like Allbirds, which can use their troves of consumer data to pinpoint neighborhoods where customers already live.

Of course, myriad obstacles stand between retail and a full recovery. In-store shopping and e-commerce remain locked in a tug-of-war, and inflation coupled with stock market chaos is hitting consumers’ wallets.

And lest we forget, the fifth Covid wave could well dampen brick-and-mortar visits.

But just as last year’s “hot girl summer” saw young urbanites cast off Covid protocols to steal a slice of normalcy with the pandemic still simmering, the attendees of this year’s “hot girl” ICSC rarely let chit chat turn to concerns about Covid’s impact on business or their current risk of contraction, preferring instead to revel in the moment.

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