Top 5 ICSC Las Vegas Takeaways
Guest: Karly Iacono
Topics: ICSC 2023, retail real estate
Chris Ressa 0:00
This is Retail Retold, the story of how that store ended up in your neighborhood. I’m your host, Chris Ressa. And I invite you to join my conversation with some of the retail industry’s biggest influencers. This podcast is brought to you by DLC management
Karly Iacono 0:24
Welcome, everybody to ‘What’s In Store’, the show where we discuss hot topics at the cross section of retail and real estate. I’m Carly Iacono, Senior Vice President at CBRE and I’m joined by Chris Ressa, they COO of DLC. Welcome Chris. Great to see you. How’s everything? Good. Happy Summer. Happy Summer is officially the day after Memorial Day that we are filming this so it is legit. Summer. I hope you got some time to celebrate last weekend.
I did I was down at the beach ice. I was in the Hamptons can’t complain. It was gorgeous. Absolutely gorgeous. Gorgeous weekend. Yeah, for sure. So we are talking about our top five takeaways from ICSC Las Vegas, which was just a few days ago, it has been an insanely busy seven days, put it mildly. For those of you that didn’t make it to ICSC or maybe have never attended.
This is the retail industry’s premier global event happens once a year in Las Vegas. Chris and I both had JAM PACKED meeting schedules. And we had very different conversations at the show based on our respective business lines. So we’re excited to come together today to tell you kind of what those conversations focused on what the main themes were that we heard this year. Chris, overall, how was the energy at the show?
It was super positive, you know, maybe cautiously optimistic. But it was, you know, given some of the earnings reports, when, you know, going into the show, I had suspected that maybe there would be some negativity as it relates to the fundamental real estate at the ground. It was bullish positive. And then obviously, as it related to the capital markets, you know, those are disrupted right now and a little bit more volatile. And so it was a lot of uncertainty around that.
Very true. There were I heard estimates anywhere from 25,000 to 40,000 people in attendance. I don’t know I’m sure ICSE can comment on the video and tell us exactly how many people were there. But it was buzzing definitely felt very, very busy.
It was super, super busy. Yeah, exactly.
Okay, let’s jump in. So in no particular order. Here were our top five takeaways. Number one, labor is challenging, but not in the ways that you may think. So Chris, why don’t you kick this off for us with your thoughts on the labor market as it pertains to retail?
Yeah, I think when people think of the labor challenge they’re thinking about, and it relates to retail, restaurants not able to get waitstaff and they’re thinking about retailers not able to get people on the floor. But I heard some different commentary around the labor challenges, you know, call it the trouble in new primary care doctors coming out of college less in the medical profession, less people coming into certain specific fields.
Physical therapy, I heard challenge to get PTS, I heard about the challenge of, you know, growing leadership in retail organizations this this decade long run in tech jobs, really making it challenging to hire great talent. And I think retailers and and adjacent industries, not just retail are starting to feel it. And I’m really looking for innovative ways to solve that.
I think the interesting takeaway here is it’s not the storyline, we’ve been hearing for so many years that everybody is going to drive Uber, instead of wanting to work an hourly retail shift, which is still still a thing, right, but it’s more systemic of a problem which you’ve just brought out. Leadership is skilled jobs.
And I think I would add one more piece here that the pay for warehouses, warehousing jobs, just read a stat is anywhere from 25 to 45%. Higher for the same skill level than similar retail forward facing jobs. So if you can apply for a job and at a warehouse or an industrial setting and make 25 to 45% more with the same skill set. That’s tough competition. I’m not sure how we we come around that.
I think clearly the answer to that, that people are saying is automation robotics. We’ll see. I don’t know if that is the answer. But that is what you’re hearing at that level. But on on the skilled labor, maybe one day, you and I are replaced by robots? I don’t know. But. But at the end of the day, I think we’re far away from certain skilled laborers, being replaced by automation and robots. And we need people in school, trying to go into these professions.
And hopefully, the cost of college will come down and make that a little bit easier. I think that’s a big piece of it too, right? Because it’s exactly so true. So labor, we don’t really have any answers sounds like, but that’s something that a lot of retailers, a lot of companies are still struggling with, at all levels of the skill spectrum.
Correct. That was probably outside of the volatile. Capital Markets, that was the most. That was the biggest new challenge that I heard at the show. Most of the other stuff really correlated to the positive, that was one of the challenges that I really, you know, people were struggling with.
So we’re getting all the negatives out of the way first. So let’s move on to number two. And then I promise everybody listening is all positive, three, four, and five, onward. Okay, so number two, is just the overall consensus on capital markets. There is a bit of positivity here. And of course, this is what all of my meetings were centered around. Because my goal and my job is to meet with owners and REITs, and everybody in the the ownership side of the business.
So all of our conversations at the booth where we want to buy, which is positive, right? There are buyers, everyone wants to buy, they want to put money out and they believe in retail. The problem is the disparity between cap rates, interest rates and the constraints in the capital markets.
So no huge surprise here. But I do think that people are starting to feel the the covenants getting tighter from lending institutions due to the recent bank failures, the interest rates continuing to rise that the cap rates not keeping up. So every conversation I had was how do we find value add retail over a seven cap?
And that’s a really, really tough thing right now. Because the the centers are stabilized, as you know, right? vacancies at a historic low? How do you find value when the market from a retail landlord perspective is so tight? Because the tenants are doing so well? So how do we find opportunities that are financial because they have upside, or they’re being offered at a higher cap rate, when there’s very, very little low amounts of vacancy in the market?
You know, one of the things I like about markets like this is that it comes back to the fundamentals of real estate. It’s a lot less financial engineering and deals right now. And it’s about how do I add value to the asset? Right, just that first premise that the investors talk to you about? Right is how do I find value add over a seven cap? The first thing they’re focused on? Is the capital market the valuation? And it’s not about right, that’s different than saying, okay, there are very few investors came to you, or maybe, I don’t know, maybe they did. But what you said was an interesting point, because to me, if you’re really on the value add side, at the real estate level, not at the financial capital markets level, the conversation maybe is I want to find deals that have less than 10 years of lease term, and market rents under you know, rents that are under 20% under market. So, then that’s about the fundamental real estate level. Right. That’s not about the capital markets. So I still think that investors have this, you know, tale of the last 10 years where money was super cheap. And the people who are going to win are the people who add the value at the real estate level, more than those who get the cheapest debt deal. And, you know, create some financial engineering, all of that still matters. All of that still matters, but it’s just that comment that you made. You know, resonated with me because, you know, they’re talking about value add deals. Okay? Well, you mean value add on the capital market side? We’re not, you know, they’re trying to get the spread between cap rates and what they can borrow at. That’s what they’re looking for in that positive leverage scenario. What I didn’t hear was the value add at the real estate level,
I think either, and when you can’t look at the assets from just a financial engineering perspective anymore, very rarely do they pencil in a positive leverage accreted situation now, then you’re forced to look at it from the real estate perspective, which is not bad. But that’s very challenging to find right now to because rents have been rising the vacancies very low. It’s, it’s just competitive to find opportunities right now, because there are a lot of people trying to buy, which is positive. That’s the great news, right? Everybody is very, very bullish on retail. But how do we find the the assets with a real estate fundamentals that you can still use and still work the properties more? And I think that’s where everyone’s focus is, which over time will make the assets even stronger? Right, as landlords like yourself continue to turn tenants over, they continue to to work the properties, but finding them from an acquisition standpoint, is especially difficult right now.
I don’t disagree. I think the way I would put it is, I think the opportunities are out there. They just might be more complicated to add the value. Sometimes it’s about densifying, the asset, looking at it completely differently. Sometimes it’s about new government approvals. But I believe that there’s opportunities out there, it’s just less about how big is the spread between the cap rate and the interest rate?
Correct. Very different mindset. But the good takeaway is everyone is in the market trying to make deals work. So there, there will be opportunity out there, you just got to dig for it was the takeaway? Correct? All right, let’s move on to number three. Now, this is one based on your conversations with retailers, which I had less of. So I’m excited to hear what you have to say on this, that the big retailers or mainstream brands, if you will, are continuing to innovate. So why don’t you kick us off by sharing a few examples of what you’ve been hearing?
Yeah, I think this is, to me pretty remarkable. For years, we have heard about all these new brands, opening stores, creating, creating e commerce websites, you know, going direct to consumer and all these new things. I was excited to hear about the really big push from Legacy mature retailers taking the next step in their evolution of their businesses, which is much more challenging, because they’re trying to move a battleship, versus, you know, coming out of the gates with a new concept and just letting the first fly. So, you know, if you, you know, if you haven’t read, but it’s been a lot of headline news, Dick’s Sporting Goods has this house of sports concept. They have public lands, they are growing these exponentially, and they haven’t taken their foot off the brake on the the traditional Dick’s Sporting Goods concept. So that was really interesting to talk to them about about, you know, such a legacy mature retailer growing at the pace that they want to grow, right, we’re not thinking about these mature retailers as growth companies like a Warby Parker, but it was exciting to hear them, you know, talk about growing in the manner in which they were
one thing I want to jump in real quick before we move on from Dick’s. That’s an important distinction. They’re not changing that the characteristics of their current stores it sounds like, right, they’re adding a new line that’s experiential, that’s different. So they’re growing by addition, not through sort of appending the current brand, for sure. Right. Right. So that’s different than we’re seeing from some other retailers that are changing prototypes, maybe going smaller, maybe moving locations, Dick’s is saying, We love who we are. And we think we can also add XYZ to create more consumer loyalty or expand our brand image.
For sure, we’re under construction on Dick’s Sporting Goods in Ithaca, New York. It’s a what many would consider a traditional Dick’s Sporting Goods store. However, it will be the newest version of their traditional store. It’s a 50,000 footer. They just had one open in South Bend, Indiana, this will be the second so we’re getting the newest decor package and all that stuff, but it’s a treat it It’s not a house of sports, it’s not a public lands. It’s a traditional Dick’s Sporting Goods. Love it.
I know Macy’s has a good bit of innovation going on.
I mean, market by Macy’s is growing, they have a huge appetite open a buy. And this is just an interesting one like this is one of the most historic retailers in America that most would think they’re in every market in the country that they need to be in. And it’s really about how do we increase the new same store sales at those locations? How do we get the best product, but here Macy’s is with a new concept. They had done a bunch of backstages. Now, they’re often really focused on this mark market by Macy’s, that’s going to be about a 40,000 footer. It’s going to be probably in power centers that are have a little bit of distance from the department store Macy’s, you know, but it’s a Macy’s shopper lives in that community, maybe the department store is not as convenient to get to, that they’re one of the largest e commerce websites in America from a sales perspective. So they have so much data about their consumer and what they buy, that I think them leveraging that to, to focus on site selection is going to be really interesting. They have so much data as it relates to their consumer.
So how does the market buy Macy’s? Comparative Macy’s backstage? Is that a different product mix? I know backstage is meant to be more discount, right?
Yeah. So backstage is an off price. Concept. This is a full line department store smaller version in the community.
Got it? So very different product offerings, theoretically,
correct shopping experience.
Good for that. That’s exciting to see the smaller format. Now where are they closing that you’ve seen their? Their main on Mall? The anchor locations? are this is additive as well.
It’s additive, we’ll get to the number five. Okay.
Sounds good. Do you want to touch on Best Buy before we move on? Yeah, you
know, Best Buy, Best Buy, who I think over the years has done such a remarkable job as a retailer, because they’ve created this, you know, they were by headline news. So suspects to Amazon, and they’ve just won time and time again. Whether it’s with the Geek Squad, whether it’s with the store in store, whether it’s adding up appliances into the store, you know, I think I think with Sears gone. And with you know, the product levels at other retailers, there’s a huge opportunity for the appliance market and retail. Best Buy BestBuy is poised to really they’ve already been kicking it up. That’s why it’s poised to really get a lot of that market share that physical retail. I don’t think picked up in the manner in which it could be. But they’re opening outlet stores, right? They have some stores. So they’re opening outlet stores to clear merchandise, which I think is going to be a really big success. Because at that price point, people are looking for deals, right? Electronics is like such a deal oriented business, right? People are constantly looking for a deal given, you know, the $5,000 TV comes out and people are like, ooh, should I do that? Or in six months? Will it be $2,500? Right. So I think the outlet store is going to be a really successful move for them. And then they have these new experience stores that I think are going to be, I don’t know, 150,000 feet, they’re going to be multi level there. They’re only going to do a few of them. But they’re going to be this crazy experience electronics experience that I don’t think we’ve seen before. So it was just so refreshing to hear these mature legacy retailers be in such a strong position to innovate and continue to grow. You know, it was really remarkable to hear
I think Best Buy does a really great job connecting to the consumer for some products that maybe there needs to be installation or there needs to be support their total tech program, I think they’re calling it which kind of goes beyond even what Geek Squad was, is adding that service element which Amazon does not do well or hasn’t figured out how to do well in my my opinion. So I think that’s kind of ingraining the customer into the brand even further which is very smart in the appliance and electronics space. For sure. Yeah, love to see it. Alright, let’s move on to number four. You’re favourite chain may look different. So this ties back to something we’ve been talking about for the last two years really, which is the absurd level of construction costs and the difficulty to build ground up. So that is unfortunately, still the case. Although the pace of increase is subsiding, we are certainly still seeing extreme inflated construction costs. So if you can’t build what do you do you backfill? So how are you seeing retailers adapt to the current climate and change the prototypes?
So for many retailers that are chains, having a consistent floor plan throughout is super efficient. It enables them to order product and you know, create some efficiencies on the supply chain logistics, you name it, having like a consistent planogram, right, so that the whatever your favorite store is, looks the same everywhere is they’re able to execute on in today’s construction cost environment, and the need for physical retail, I think you’re finally and we’ve been talking about it for a while going to start to see potential deviations from that to access great real estate. And because the costs potentially, from a construction perspective are prohibitive, I’ll give an example. You have a bed bath box available right now. And bed bath, let’s just say the bathrooms were in the front. But your store prototype has the bathrooms in the back? Well, that could be it could be upwards of 100 grand to move those bathrooms in the back, right on a 40,000 foot store. You know, things like that start to add up on cost. Obviously, if we’re constantly, you know, we have to take this existing box and just retrofitted to make it exactly how my normal planogram works, I’m finally starting to say or to see retailers go and work with their internal store planning and construction teams and go, alright, let’s just leave the bathrooms there. That’ll save 100 grand, and the retailers are either going to pay that out of pocket or potentially in more rent. And while that seems simple to do, I would tell you, that’s a big step forward, because it was hard for retailers to do that because of the efficiencies they gained from moving those bathrooms in the back. And the bathrooms are just an example. There’s a lot of different things in the store that people can do to value engineer and cut the costs. And we’re starting to see that at scale. And I think that’s going to help more retailers open. That’s going to help lower the CapEx spend by both parties. And I think it’s going to lead to more deals.
It sounds so simple, doesn’t it just leave the bathrooms there? Well, let’s continue with the example you gave. But when you really break that down, if the bathrooms are in a different place, then the whole store layout has to change to accommodate that. Like it’s actually pretty big shift for the retailer. Sounds simple to us listening when we’re not in a day to day, but that’s a big, that’s a big deal. Interesting. And are you seeing this more because the landlords are pushing back on the TI or tenants are unwilling to absorb it. And that’s kind of the stalemate that both parties are saying listen, we’re we’re maxed out here on ti dollars, we’re maxed out on rent. So instead of just fighting back and forth for who’s going to pay more, we need to come together and figure out how to make it cost less. Are we at that inflection point?
Yeah, I think the way I think about it is said simply yes to your question. The way I think about it is the overall cost for the landlord to install a tenant and the overall cost for a retailer to open a store. And both of those have risen. And I think landlords and retailers have found a working on every creative way to lower those costs. And we’re at a point now where I think we’ve exhausted a lot of those things. The landlords have the cost to install a tenant and the retailers have the cost to open their store that changing the store a bit is the thing that adds the biggest bang for the buck right now.
Makes sense? Yes. All right. Let’s move on to number five. This is course extremely positive. Guyana shown a high note but also very true. It is retailers are open for business. Seems basic, but this isn’t all overall sentiment of retail industry strength of tenants. And just kind of where we are right now retailers are open for business, and they are trying very hard to expand. And their stores are doing very well. So I know you have a few examples we want to jump into. Let’s start with something we touched on in our last episode, because I’d love an update on what you heard from ICSE. On the buzz around the Bed, Bath and Beyond boxes that are going to auction everyone is fighting over. So what is the latest that you heard on Bed Bath and Beyond, and any of that space that might become available?
I think so this was probably the biggest topic of conversation was the Bed Bath and Beyond, at least for me that I had was the Bed Bath and Beyond the bankruptcy auction and those leases going to auction. I think right now, bed bath is still in the part of the bankruptcy where they can try to sell the company. And so I think that ends in the next couple of weeks. And once that ends, if there are no suitors for the entire business, then the leases will go to auction. And I can tell you, there’s a lack of box space in America and retailers are salivating. I think there’s real there’s already ello eyes across the country for those spaces. And I say for those spaces for many of the spaces. So some will go back to the landlord. But I think there will be an extraordinary amount of retailers who show up to bankruptcy court to buy some of those leases at auction. And historically, I think that, you know, what really drove that process was is there a spread between what that lease rate is versus market rent. And that’ll still play a factor. But what I kept hearing was this is about access to great real estate, you know, traditionally Bed Bath and Beyond had great real estate, they have pretty strong leases, generally from a tenant perspective. And this is less about what is the spread between the lease rate and the market rate? And how do I access Great Real Estate? Today, and I think that is really interesting. I can tell you from our own portfolio, we have two Bed Bath boxes, both have multiple letters of intent on those boxes. So there’s a place
for this what kind of uses are bidding on this basis?
I think, you know, I heard at the so the answer is in my portfolio. It’s off price. It’s apparel. It is furniture. I’ve heard in I’ve heard those two categories. I’ve heard grocery I’ve heard the clothes out retailers. I there. I think the list is going to be robust. This is a retailer that had a lot of interesting. Real Estate, right? They were in the suburbs and power centers. They’re in urban areas. They’re right they have some iconic New York City Real Estate. Right. So I think this is going to be really unique bankruptcy auction.
Funny, whoever thought we would be so excited about a retailer bankruptcy, but that feels like the buzz around it right brands like for sure what happens at that location. This is great. I wish it would hurry up. What’s What’s this one? Gonna be? Sure. So you don’t often think bankruptcy and excitement. But that is exactly the case right now. Love it. Sure. There’s a few other categories that we noted were really, really in focus from an expansion standpoint, I’m sure you have thoughts on these as well. It was the healthy fast food fast casual, and then specialty doughnuts or specialty sweets seems a lot of conversation around doughnuts, but I’m sure it’s more expansive than that. So food and beverage in the suburban centers getting a lot more interesting from a concept perspective. What are your thoughts on that?
Yeah, so DLC just put out a white paper. So if you haven’t downloaded downloaded Karli it’s called a breath of open air and the premises about you know why open air retail is, you know, one of the strongest and maybe one of the less appreciated real estate categories of all all commercial real estate One of the things we are seeing is this suburban search is still continuing to happen. You know, the a lot of the retail expansion is about the suburbs. And, you know, the urban environment is a challenge, I was on a retail panel. And they had me and they had someone who was, who leases space in the urban environment. And it was really the dichotomy of how challenging the urban environment is versus how robust the suburban environment is. And I think food is a good segue to that, right, which is, you mentioned, you know, food and beverage category, well, if people are working from home, or than they were, if people move to the suburbs, the suburban populations have more, both full time, population, and daytime population. And, you know, food and beverage usually follows that.
I’m excited for some new concepts, I think it’s time for innovative change, so can’t wait to see it. Sweet greens and similar concepts coming to a neighborhood near me, for sure. The last category that I was paying close attention to that I’d love for you to touch on is entertainment. So felt like for years, we were talking about experiential retail, then that gateway to COVID. And now we’re back talking about experiential retail. So having gone to many retail centers, obviously, in my day to day life, I am always amazed by the new concepts that I see popping up, like indoor go karting, seems to be everywhere, all of a sudden. So what are your thoughts on the entertainment side, maybe virtual reality, there’s just endless ideas here, and how that is going to evolve over the next year.
So I think, you know, in the, between 2010 and 2020, we used to hear this comment that people wanted in the tech world, a new business would come on, and they would claim were the Uber of x. In the retail space, right now, what I’m seeing is everyone wants to be the top golf of address.
It’s such a great comparison.
So Top Golf has had such a big success. And then with the explosion of golf post COVID. They have, you know, rode this wave, they’re doing great. And, you know, we just saw this new baseball concept come out that wants to be the top golf of baseball. And what the biggest one where there was multiple operators at the show is people are trying to be the pickleball of top, the top golf of pickleball. I can’t believe how many pickleball operators there are out there. And they’re claiming it’s not a fad, given the rapid participation, and how many people are growing into pickleball. It is huge. And some of these pickleball chains that are up and running are really successful, and they’re limited. And I’m talking about think of a pickleball concept that looks like a top golf, but is pickleball I’m not talking about a restaurant that might add two pickleball courts, there might be a lot of those, there’s very few pickleball concepts out there open today that look like a top golf,
right. That’s the main focus.
Well, Top Golf, you know, does significant business in the food and beverage, part of their business. And so, and that is the plan and what these pickleball operators do. But I think if the pickleball operators of the world have their way, there’s going to be a lot of pickleball concepts out there that look a lot like Top Golf. So obviously, the go to market for that is challenged, right? Think about the real estate component. Top Golf took a while to get up and running. They take up a ton of real estate, it’s typically a development deal. And it takes years to get them going and they have to find a creative way to finance it. And Top Golf had some really clever ways to finance their growth. And now they’re in such a good position. You know, I don’t know when we’re sitting here and talking about a pickleball concept that has 100 Plus locations and looks like Top Golf, but I can tell you that was hot on the ICSC floor.
Amazing. Cannot wait to get an update on that this time next year. Let’s see how many people are still playing pickleball how they make these profitable and how they find this space in the square footage. I saw some pictures of pickleball companies opening and that the main floor area of mall halls not an anchor space, it’s just in the middle of the mall, which is very strange to me. But it’s vacant space. It’s empty space underutilized space. So they’re gonna go wherever they can fit, but where they end up and how they perform financially will be really interesting to watch.
Let’s talk about it from a capital markets perspective. I know, a central properties trust, I believe, bought for pickleball, their net lease company they bought for pickleball concepts. Top Golf, as a top golf traded lately.
I haven’t seen one few and far between.
And they usually trade at pretty compelling cap rates from a seller perspective. So we’ll see, I don’t know that any pickleball operators have the balance sheet of, you know, top golf, and, you know, now they’re owned by Callaway, but they want to get there. And so the theme that I would say is everyone wants to be the top golf have,
right. And that’s going to come down to who is backing them financially, right. And if you can get a strong guarantor, the landlord’s are going to be more open to taking a risk on the concept, because there’s something behind it. So what private equity companies swoops in and finances rapid pickleball expansion? That’s really, in my opinion, going to be the determining factor on who wins the pickleball race or whatever sport we’re talking about.
pickleball race TVD is gonna be fun. Have you played?
I’ve played once. Yes. Okay. Yep.
Yeah, a few times. Yep. restripe. My basketball court in the backyard to add pickleball No way. Yeah. It’s not hard to do. So good time. All right. We covered a lot to everyone listening. Those were our top five takeaways from ICSC Las Vegas. 2023. If you have questions, comments, reach out to Chris right. We love talking about retail real estate. And Chris, thank you so much. Great to see you. As always, you too. And until next month, that was what’s in store. I’m Carly Iacono joined by my co host Chris rosette and we can’t wait to see you again very soon. Take care everyone. Bye.
Chris Ressa 37:27
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