By Garrick Brown, Vice President of Retail Research, Americas
ICSC New York was a great show this year. It was great for a few reasons.
First off, attendance was way up this year. I wasn’t able to get final tallies this morning but it looks like it was well above 10,000 people. Just two years ago it was at 7,600 attendees and three years ago that number stood at 6,900 people.
Secondly, the weather was phenomenal for this time of year with highs in the 50s and sunny, clear skies. Of course, this didn’t matter so much on Monday or Tuesday to attendees lost deep in the bowels of the Javitz Center. But it meant a lot to anyone who came in early or who is staying late. And it certainly meant a lot to retailers in New York and throughout the northeast the last few days. I toured a number of the city’s premier retail districts on Saturday and Sunday. It was bedlam in a good way. The crowds were out and they were buying.
Third, it was a great show because virtually every broker I spoke to reported better deal activity this year. That being said, this show tends to be a little more urban and upscale retailer focused than a lot of other ICSC shows, but it’s a good sign nonetheless.
And lastly, it was a great show for me personally. Sure, it helps that the panel I was regarding retail technology Sunday went well. But what really helped my trip was that I finally wised-up and didn’t stay in Midtown Manhattan. I avoided the $500-per-night for a 200 square foot hotel room, the hordes of tourists and the endless restaurants you want to get into (but can’t) and the endless ones you can easily get into (but don’t want to). Instead I stayed on the Lower East Side in a neighborhood my colleague Sammons assures me not too long ago I wouldn’t have wanted to step foot into after dark. It was, ultimately, a hipster neighborhood.
So what does that mean? It means I could go across the street and depending on the mood get anything from chicken and waffles to duck a’la orange to $2.50 pizza by the slice. It also means a preponderance of bars selling craft cocktails. I was at one of them Sunday night where some lumberjack with a Brooklyn accent served me. I asked him to bring me whatever his favorite drink was and next thing you know he’s breaking out an eighth grade science kit and mixing things in test tubes. About 20 minutes later I get this drink that has shrubberies in it and I didn’t quite understand the bartender’s explanation, but apparently something having to do with handle bar mustache wax… Or something. Whatever it was, it was great.
We began chatting and I let him know what I did for a living. He was particularly interested when I told him that consumer behavior was one of the things I track and that millennials were a major point of focus for me.
At that point, my new bartender friend only confirmed everything that every single menu in his neighborhood and that every single market survey I have ever come across… Which is that when it comes to food, millennials care deeply about sustainability, about being Eco-friendly, being Eco-conscious and about farm-to-fork. Product sourcing, what goes into it and the impact on the earth, on animals and on workers, is a major value. To many, it is the primary issue that determines where they eat, even more so than pricing.
I let my new compatriot go on, explaining this ethos in detail; not that it wasn’t anything I wasn’t used to seeing in one analysis after another parroted in all the trades or in the success of everyone from Chipotle (current scare aside) to Whole Foods. But it was nice to hear it directly from the horse’s mouth.
In the middle of our conversation another bartender arrived and complimented him on his outfit. He responded how he had just picked it up at one of the hot new fast fashion stores in the market (one I will politely decline to name). “Oh man, that place is incredible: $3 t-shirts, $7 jeans, and this jacket was only $10!”
Then he went right back to telling me how if you want to understand millennials, that you need to understand that product sourcing is one of their great values and virtues. Then he took off his gleaming, brand new $10 jacket and made me another drink.
This post is commentary from the latest weekly edition of our Cushman & Wakefield Retail Newsline, which you can subscribe to for free by e-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
Garrick joined Cushman & Wakefield (formerly DTZ / Cassidy Turley) in October 2010. He serves as Vice President of Retail Research for the Americas. He speaks frequently at industry events and has been a keynote speaker at symposiums, conferences and market forecasting events for groups like the Appraisal Institute, Urban Land Institute, CREW, ICSC and PRSM. He is also a member of Lambda Alpha International, an invitation-only land use society for those who are involved in the ownership, management, regulation and conservation of land, but also those who are involved in its development, redevelopment and preservation.