Washington Post photo by Abha Bhattarai
FILE Kara Driscoll
— Retail real estate agent Andrew Feinblatt has been prepping for weeks to travel to Las Vegas Sunday, where he hopes to shake some hands and close some deals to bring back new retail and restaurant options to the Dayton area.
Feinblatt, of OnSite Retail Group, is among 37,000 people expected to attend RECon: The Global Retail Real Estate Convention — the retail industry’s largest annual gathering — which kicks off Sunday in Las Vegas.
Attendees credit the convention as a key tool for getting face time with retail chain executives and using those relationships to persuade the brands on where to open their next location.
“This venue is a prime opportunity to get stuff done,” Feinblatt said. “This is really that one time during the year when you can get the two parties to sit at the same table.”
Top representatives with retailers, restaurants, hotels, developers, shopping mall owners, real estate agents, and cities all come to the Las Vegas Convention Center to make deals while everyone is in one place.
The convention in years past has translated into local shopping and eating options.
Kelly Gray, a retail real estate agent with Equity LLC said the deal for the new Starbucks on Ohio 725 was finalized during a previous convention year and the Pizza Hut in Englewood was a direct result of a convention meeting.
“A lot of deals are wrapped up there,” Gray said.
Feinblatt said when he worked a deal to put an Aqua Tots franchise in a Beavercreek shopping center, the franchise owner was local but the broker was based in Texas, so the convention was a way to sit down face to face and talk out the deal.
The large convention is also a means for smaller communities like the Dayton metro, which have to work harder to get the attention of national brands.
“They are probably in Chicago three or four times a year because it’s a very important market to them, but they may only come to Dayton every 10 years,” Feinblatt said. “So if I can get a meeting for 30 minutes and talk through what’s going on in Beavercreek, it helps them become familiar with the market.”
The convention, held each year by the International Council of Shopping Centers, comes at a time when the rules of retail are changing, shifting what the options will be for locals looking to make a deal this year.
Grocery stores are shifting with new technology, department stores are struggling, and “experiential” retail is the new trend. Even Amazon — possibly the chief disrupter of retail — is scheduled to have representatives at the convention this year.
Gray said she expects one of the themes of the convention to be how technology can be used at malls and stores, like through interactive kiosks and other tech tools that can be used to drive customers.
New restaurants should continue to be hot topics this year at the convention, Danielle Kuehnle, of Oberer Realty Services, which represents Cornerstone of Centerville and the Flats at South Park.
“I think we’ll continue to see an uptick in new and expanding restaurants,” she said, including both fast casual and sit down restaurants chains.
Fitness chains like CycleBar, Orangetheory Fitness and Club Pilates should also be growing this year, said Kuehnle.
As the economy continues to grow and people have more disposable income, Kuehnle said people have been increasing spending on health and wellness, which has been helping fuel the boutique fitness sector’s growth.
Gray said she anticipates seeing less fashion retailers, which is a struggling sector, and more restaurants, sporting good stores, and discount stores, which have been growing.
Trotwood sent a representative to the event last year for the first time in years, said Fred Burkhardt, executive director of the Trotwood Community Improvement Corp, which is the city’s private development arm. With economic development, he said it is critical to invest in putting the city’s name out there and making new connections.
Burkhardt, who is not attending this year, said the contacts he made at he convention did not materialize yet into a project in Trotwood, but he is still keeping in touch so he has those relationships when the city is ready to reach out on a project or master plan.
“We learned a great deal about the retail marketplace and where Trotwood might fit in that marketplace,” he said.