RECon Recap: Takeaways from ICSC RECon 2016

Thursday, June 2, 2016

By HFF Director Charles J. Osbrink in HFF's Orange County office.  

The HFF National Retail Team kicked off ICSC RECon 2016 doing what we do best: collaborating as a team. More than 80 HFF producers joined together at the Encore at Wynn Las Vegas ballroom early Sunday morning on May 22 before the conference commenced to discuss market trends, best practices, maintaining the HFF brand/image and discussing strategies to capture more business and market share. This is a tradition we started at ICSC RECon in 2015 and saw great results through improved communication and more consistent sharing of best practices that allow us to efficiently execute for our clients. It also serves as a good reminder of why we are really at the convention: for our clients.

Rolling right out of the HFF brainstorming session, the HFF 2016 ICSC Cocktail and Networking Reception was in top form this year, with guests lining up before the doors opened. The ballroom was packed within the first 30 minutes, hosting more than 1,200 select clients and the HFF National Retail Team. The room was filled with conversations ranging from new deals coming to market, recent deal pricing, financing activity and, of course, the score of the Warriors versus Thunder playoff game. Our reception seemed to be one of the more talked about receptions at ICSC, as clients buzzed about the location at the Brahms Ballroom at the Encore.

In addition, given the incredible market activity and at the request of many of our clients, this year HFF leased a large meeting room down the hall from the Central Hall entrance. This meeting room, fully stocked with coffee and other refreshments, allowed HFF employees to have more personalized meetings with clients and also served as a recharge point for producers and clients in between meetings to catch up on calls and/or emails.  The retail brochure HFF made available to RECon attendees is available here.

A pot of coffee and a breakfast sandwich couldn’t prepare the most eager producer for the 36,000-plus registered attendees (more than 1,100 companies) walking the halls on Monday morning. It is worth noting that number does not include the non-registered attendees roaming freely around the common area halls and meeting outside the Central Hall Starbucks that seemed like it could total another 5,000 people. According to previous conventions, this is the highest number in attendance in the post-recession and easily one of the largest real estate trade shows in the world. Throughout the conference, there was incredible energy and activity inside the halls as well as in the common areas (i.e. the most popular Starbucks and FedEx business center). The energy did not end when the halls cleared, often spilling over into the late night hosted networking receptions, which saw record attendance and made for some interesting early morning meetings.

More than just getting deals done, which is more typical for those focused on leasing and management, ICSC RECon is about being present and relevant in one of the more bullish markets we have experienced in a long time. A few of the more commonly-discussed themes overheard during and after the conference are outlined below.

Optimistic investors still remain under allocated in retail and are targeting best-in-class retail investments

  • Despite some recent concern of an upcoming dip in the cycle, many investors seem to feel that we will be in good shape over the next couple of years and have no plans to pullback; however, investors are becoming more cautious about the investments they undertake, making sure they check certain critical boxes, including surrounding demographics, income growth and functionality of the center.
  • Potential turbulence in the investment market in the fourth quarter into 1Q 2017 may be tied to the pending CMBS risk retention program.
  • Private and 1031 investors have been some of the most aggressive buyers recently, with institutional advisors paying the most aggressive cap rates for stabilized assets given the dearth of core product available.

Heavier appetite for value-added retail investments

  • Deals that have a “true” value-add component to them, including attainable below market rents, immediate lease-up and repositioning, are incredibly attractive and pricing through expectations.
  • It is worth noting that underwriting assumptions have been more heavily scrutinized compared to the peak of the last cycle. Rent growth continues to be a red flag that is cautiously analyzed.

Capital infusion into prime locations in secondary markets.

  • Given the significant compression of cap rates in gateway markets, investors are pushing into secondary markets in search of yield.
  • Job and population growth have been key drivers for investors focused on secondary markets.
  • For the right location in secondary markets, we are seeing a competitive landscape with both tenants looking for space to lease and buyers in search of yield.

Integration of technology into brick and mortar retail

  • Technology continues to see a huge push into real estate, trying to figure out the best way to penetrate a traditional business model.
  • Both on-site activation and online synergies.
  • Not just websites, but highly-integrated smart phone apps, allowing for ordering/shopping in advance with in-store pick up, rankings/reviews and more.
  • Social media advertising and “following” applications help develop brand recognition.
  • Goal is to keep consumers engaged and not just overcome the e-commerce threat, but embrace it.

Retailers all seem to be in expansion mode and looking for the best of the best locations

  • QSRs, specialty and ethnic grocers and discount retailers are rumored to have some of the most aggressive growth strategies.
  • Retailers are more cautious about the size and the location of their stores than they were prior to the recession.

We would like to thank our clients and partners for making 2016 ICSC RECon an incredible experience. We always look to ICSC RECon as an indicator of the activity and sentiment for the rest of the year, and, if that is a true indicator, then we all believe it will be a very busy and successful second half of 2016.

About ICSC

Founded in 1957, ICSC is the global trade association of the shopping center industry. Its more than 70,000 members in over 100 countries include shopping center owners, developers, managers, investors, retailers, brokers, academics, and public officials. The shopping center industry is essential to economic development and opportunity. They are a significant job creator, driver of GDP, and critical revenue source for the communities they serve through the collection of sales taxes and the payment of property taxes. These taxes fund important municipal services like firefighters, police officers, school services, and infrastructure like roadways and parks. Shopping centers aren’t only fiscal engines however; they are integral to the social fabric of their communities by providing a central place to congregate with friends and family, discuss community matters, and participate in and encourage philanthropic endeavors. For more information about ICSC visit and for the latest news from ICSC and the industry go to

About HFF’s Retail Group

Holliday Fenoglio Fowler, L.P. (HFF) is one of the top producing capital markets intermediaries in the country for retail assets having closed more than $77 billion in over 4,000 transactions since 1998. We have 139 retail specialists who are experts in investment sales, providing construction, interim and permanent debt alternatives, structured finance options including joint ventures, participating debt and mezzanine financing structures, and ground-up development capitalization. Learn more about HFF's Retail Group here.  To view the HFF ICSC RECon Brochure, click here.

About Charles J. Osbrink

Charles J. Osbrink (CJ) is a Director in the Orange County office of HFF with more than nine years of commercial real estate experience. He will relocate this summer to HFF’s new Phoenix office, where he will continue to specialize in retail investment sales in Southern California and Arizona. Mr. Osbrink has been instrumental in the completion of more than $2 billion in transactions.

Mr. Osbrink joined the firm in May 2011. Prior to HFF, he worked as a Director of Acquisitions at a private Orange County-based firm. Before that, he worked as a Senior Associate of Acquisitions at Grubb & Ellis Realty Investors. Mr. Osbrink volunteers on the Alumni Committee for NAIOP SoCal and is actively involved in other charitable organizations.

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