ICSC Idea Exchange Monterey
Blogger: David Sacci
As a Bennett W Schwartz scholar, I had the opportunity to travel to the International Council of Shopping Centers (ICSC) Idea Exchange in Monterey, CA and I had an excellent learning experience. Over the course of the two-day conference I attended panel discussions featuring professionals who were shopping center developers, economic researchers and behavioral scientists. I also had the chance to meet and network with these professionals. One unexpected opportunity was the chance to gain more insight into Real Estate Investment Trusts (REITs), which is an investment opportunity that the Blyth Fund has been exploring recently.
The first session I attended was a panel discussion on factory outlet malls. Recently there’s been a resurgence of factory outlet malls in the U.S. and the panelists were trying to get to the bottom of why that was. Factory outlet malls democratize the luxury retail shopping experience by allowing more consumers to purchase goods at a lower price point. To meet this demand, there has been a double-digit increase in the number of factory outlet malls since 2007. Rob White, the economic director for the city of Livermore, CA said he’d seen “nothing by boom times” for the newly opened outlet in his city. For American consumers, shopping has become a form of entertainment—so much so that they’re looking for destination shopping. The architecture and location of factory outlet malls are serving the needs of today’s luxury and fast fashion brands consumer. What I thought was interesting was that a factory outlet mall can thrive or die based off of the collusion of its tenants. Whereas a traditional mall will lease out space to large anchor tenants before the smaller ones come in, in factory outlet malls all of the tenants collude to enter the mall and have simultaneous grand openings.
Another panel I attended explored the demographics and consumption trends of generations X, Y and Z. As a child of the early 90s I fall into Generation Y and I agree with most of the panelists assertions. My generation is entrepreneurial; we tend to find ways to do what we want to do even if it means going around the norm. We value self-expression and co-creation. One panelist referenced the West Seattle Tool Library as an example of Generation Y’s desire to own less “stuff.” This is the same generation that is saddled with debt (typically school loans), who are okay downsizing and don’t mind living in small apartments, as long as they have premium finishes.
The ICSC Idea Exchange in Monterey was a great opportunity to learn from industry professionals who were using economic theory to adapt to the growing changes in the consumer retail sector.