Last week at the 2012 ICSC Western Conference, many of the trends my colleagues in Florida were seeing on the east coast are showing up on the west coast too. Retailers are definitely looking for opportunities to expand, and restaurant concepts are the most aggressive. The next hottest food trend that is being developed and growing first in California is the fast fired pizza concept. This is Chipotle-style pizza where the dough is fired at high temperatues while the customer is waiting and hand-picking their toppings. Leading the way with this trend is Rick Wetzel, founder of Wetzel’s Pretzels, with his concept called Blaze. Another one, Pieology, plans on expanding once they’ve mastered the concept in Southern California.
I saw retailers at the show continuing to look for better locations at lower rates, a common strategy that emerged out of the recession. Meetings in San diego also highlighted rapidly expanding companies including H&M, Maurices, Teavana, Love Culture, and Exotica, to name a few.
Many traditional mall retailers are starting to consider their first time locations in open-air centers. Teavana, for example, is looking at lifestyle centers in better markets rather than expanding in secondary or tertiary market malls. Banana Republic and Gap are also continuing to pursue their Lifestyle Center and Factory Outlet presence, allowing them to the opportunity to enter into better markets.
Overall, the ICSC Western Conference was a huge success and I look forward to seeing continued smart and strategic optimism at the regional trade shows to come.
Retail, West Coast Leasing
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