ICSC 2021 Recap: Smaller Event, Bigger Connections

Cadence’s Takeaways from the ICSC “Here. We Go, 2021” in Las Vegas Dec 5-7 2021.

The ICSC is a major event for us every year, bringing the entire retail real estate industry together from all over the nation – and the world! The event is hosted by global trade organization International Council of Shopping Centers, although they’ve recently rebranded the ICSC acronym to stand for “Innovating Commerce, Serving Communities.”

Like 2020, the year 2021 was not without its disruptions and uncertainties. After two different virtual versions of the conference, ICSC was finally able to organize an in-person event in early December. And Cadence was ready! The last time we went to Las Vegas for this event was in May 2019. So a group of five of us – William, Kay, Luch, Kim, and Dave – headed to the conference to represent Cadence. It was mostly business, with a side of pleasure. Here are our takeaways: 

More Business, Less Fluff

Compared to the pre-pandemic version of this event, almost everything felt strikingly different. Because of the timing in December and the uncertainty that lingers around live events, the conference felt much smaller – maybe around 20% of the usual turnout. But that didn’t dampen the mood. Those who had made the trip were extra motivated to make the most of it. 

The attitude of “let’s get deals done” was almost contagious. Networking with a smaller group of highly driven attendees meant there was less filler and fluff. Kay noted that “it was refreshing and energizing in a way that I did not expect.”

Retail is alive and evolving

From all the conversations we had and the wisdom we shared, one big takeaway emerged: retail is here to stay! While commentators were predicting the end of a brick-and-mortar era during the height of the pandemic, the emerging new reality is bursting with promise. 

Everyone was abuzz with new developments and projects in the works. Experts led sessions on the innovation that is taking place in the areas of dining, workplaces, and shopping, and entertainment spaces. Far from going extinct, these physical spaces are integrating technology faster than ever. 

west hall lobby, Las Vegas Convention Center

Same Las Vegas home, stunning new conference venue

One thing remains constant about the ICSC convention – Las Vegas is the perfect home for it. As a global destination for conferences, dining, shopping, and entertainment, the city is like a living museum for the marketplace industry. 

However, we were pleasantly surprised by the change in venue for the 2021 “Here. We Go” conference. It was held in the newly built West Hall, a 14 million square-foot expansion of the Las Vegas Convention Center. Its renovation had a $1 billion price tag and debuted in June of 2021. We recommend checking out the 14,000 square foot outdoor terrace with amazing views of the strip.

Another highlight of our conference visit was a meal at Nobu. Inside Caesars Palace, we got into full Las Vegas glamour mode as we experienced chef Nobu Matsuhisa’s high-end Japanese cuisine. Five stars!

One thing is certain – we will be back to Las Vegas for the May 2022 ICSC. We’ll be excited to see all our friends and connections in the industry as conferences get back into full swing.