It’s ICSC week in New York City and while many in the retail business consider the event secondary to the larger conference held by the organization in Las Vegas each May, for many Manhattan real estate brokers, the conference is the most important of the year—and not necessarily just because of its jam-packed daytime roster of speakers and seminars.
In establishments from the New York Times’s four-star-rated Del Posto to the Dream Hotel in Lower Manhattan, buttoned-up retail brokers will be wining and dining potential clients during a two-day orgy of after-hour soirees, dinners and suds-soaked meetings, all designed with the deal in mind.
“It’s not like walking the floor in Vegas—you have to have appointments beforehand,” sniffed Faith Hope Consolo, a retail leasing executive with Prudential Douglas Elliman. “It’s a ton of networking, dinner and lunch and breakfast and cocktails with different landlords and retailers.”
The event is still the second-largest retail event in the country and draws top executives from most of the world’s major retailers, not to mention almost all of the city’s major retail players. With so many key people congregated in one place (at the New York Hilton), brokers work overtime to try to maximize the chance to arrange deals or plant seeds for potential transactions in the future.
The opportunity is of special importance to brokers like Richard Hodos, an executive at the real estate services company CBRE. Mr. Hodos, a seasoned broker who has handled a number of major leasing deals in the city, is in the process of marketing one of the city’s marquee retail projects, roughly 90,000 square feet of stores that will be built at the base of a proposed 70-story tower that the CIM Group is planning to develop on the former site of the Drake Hotel at 57th Street and Park Avenue.
For Mr. Hodos, the show allows him to round up decision-making executives from major retailers who could be potential takers of the space and actually bring them to the site and show them the plans for the soaring tower, not to mention wine and dine them.
“For me, it’s a good way to connect retailers with landlords who have product that meets the retailer’s strategic needs,” Mr. Hodos wrote in an email. “It’s also a great way to introduce retailers to property in New York that we exclusively represent. Since most retailers I schedule ICSC meetings with are from ‘out-of-town,’ it is often one of the only opportunities during the year to physically get them here to actually see our properties.”
The event takes place on Monday and Tuesday, a much quicker schedule than in Las Vegas, which stretches a week and is widely described as a bonanza of networking and dealmaking that draws movers and shakers from all walks of the retail business. Because the New York ICSC is shorter, many brokers work overtime to maximize the opportunity.
Mr. Hodos said that his week will begin on Sunday entertaining clients with a dinner at the Iroquois Hotel. On Monday, he is taking clients to Del Posto.
To maximize time at the show, where guests congregate on the Hilton’s ballroom floor and also have meetings in hotel rooms and private suites booked upstairs, Ariel Schuster, an executive at Robert K. Futterman, a retail leasing and sales brokerage based in the city, said he pushes space tours with clients to Wednesday and Thursday.
“Many retail executives stay for the week so after the show they can continue to meet with brokers and landlords,” Mr. Schuster explained.
After hours he too takes the time to entertain clients. Every year, Mr. Schuster says he hosts a private dinner with the retailers and landlords he works closely with. On Monday, he says he’ll be doing the event at A Voce, a high-end restaurant at the Time Warner Center. While the conversation during an event as important as ICSC never strays too far from business, the point of the dinner is to also have fun.
“After working with these people for years, you’re also friends and we all have a great time getting together,” Mr. Schuster said.
Though the ICSC show features numerous speaking panels throughout the day, most brokers pass on the scheduled program to network and meet with clients. Mr. Schuster said that he has about 25 meetings scheduled heading into the conference, some of which are dedicated to pitching tenants he otherwise would have trouble connecting with, such as out-of-town retailers and those from overseas looking to come to the U.S.
For him, the conference goes beyond just spurring new business and reconnecting with those he already works with. Mr. Schuster said that he uses ICSC as a convenient place to also cinch up deals that have already been in the works.
“Everybody is there so you can finally get people face to face,” Mr. Schuster said, explaining that he grabs landlords and tenants while they’re on hand and gets them together to get transactions he has been working on, or that have stalled, over the goal line.
“If you’ve been negotiating a deal, you’re trading paper, having conference calls,” Mr. Schuster said. “But when you get people together all of a sudden you can get all the issues out of the way and get the deal done. People are more focused, they’re here for two days to do deals, it’s intense. Vegas is the Super Bowl but this is close to it.”
For some, the event is not always so structured.
“Every year I usually unexpectedly bump into people on the floor of the conference that inevitably leads to something,” Jeffrey Roseman, a top retail broker from Newmark Knight Frank, wrote in an email.
Chance encounters may be particularly helpful to Mr. Roseman. Among the projects that Mr. Roseman is working on is the marketing of space at the Limelight on 21st Street and Avenue of the Americas, a location that has been unsuccessful as a boutique mall with over a dozen tenants and that Mr. Roseman is aiming to lease to one or two tenants.