Progressive Real Estate Partners team at ICSC 2023 Western Conference
From L to R: Brad Umansky, Gigi Rosiles, Trinnie Lee, Greg Bedell, Heather Sharp, Chris Lindholm & Lance Mordachini

Last week, twelve members of the Progressive Real Estate Partners team traveled to San Diego to attend the 2023 ICSC Western Conference. Since our firm is primarily active in Southern California this is always one of our favorite conferences because of the California and overall West Coast focus.

Our team interacted with hundreds of our industry colleagues and clients. Overall, it was very productive and it’s always terrific to meet with so many people in person so that we can further build the relationships that enhance ALL of our successes.

From an economic perspective, the themes were very similar to what I most recently reported in our 3rd quarter update for SoCal’s Inland Empire.  Vacancies are at record lows, there is minimal new construction, investment sales are down due to higher interest rates, and tenant demand remains high creating frustration amongst tenants and their brokers.  As a result, I decided to focus this year’s blog on some of my non-economic observations.

Here are some of my thoughts on the overall conference vibe, trends I observed, women’s presence in the industry, and the rumor about where next year’s Western conference will be held.

Positive Vibe:  There were just over 3,000 people registered for the conference. Although that number is down from the past when it was well over 5,000 people, I feel confident saying that those who are active in the business were present and cautiously optimistic. Brokers are still doing deals, but the transactions are likely more challenging. Owners mostly have good cash flow because of low vacancy, but some are cautious about what happens when they need to refinance assets, and most tenants that were present were strategically growing.

Trade Floor Dominated by Fewer Players: The trade floor felt geographically smaller.  Our industry is clearly aggregating into fewer firms doing more of the business. When I looked at the physical map of the booths in years prior, I realized that the trade floor was formerly row after row of similar sized booths with possibly a few firms having larger spaces. This year 70% of the trade floor is larger booths with the smaller ones pushed to the edges.

Fewer Retailer Booths:  In the past, there were retailer booths threaded throughout the trade floor which made the conference more interesting and dynamic.  This year there were about 35 retailers lined up along “Retailer Central” which was a string of shared tables where retailers consolidated with likely only one representative present. Unfortunately, if that representative had a meeting else where they would leave their table unattended. The only retailers with actual booths on the show floor were DollarTree/Family Dollar, EOS Fitness, In-N-Out, Jersey Mike’s, Northgate Market, Panda, Planet Fitness, Primrose Schools, Quick Quack Car Wash and Sonny’s Car Wash.

Women in the Business: There was a Women’s Breakfast Panel that I was unable to attend but the presence of this panel made me wonder how many women are currently active in the business and in what roles. I have always believed that women have an advantage in our industry largely because they typically understand retail far better than most men and my experience has been that they are more detail oriented and tend to work harder and smarter. Historically the perception has been that approximately 25% of the people active are women but a recurring question has been at what level?

I decided to see if I could quantify it by going through the ICSC event registration. Out of 294 names surveyed, 23% were women which is in line with the expected range. But what I found most interesting were their titles which included National Sales Manager, CFO, President, Owner, Real Estate Director, Director of Development, Operations & Marketing Manager, Regional Director, National RE Manager, Executive Vice President, Managing Director, Director of Leasing, Partner, Principal, Director of Design, and other senior titles. There were certainly titles such as Associate, Administrative Assistant, Marketing Associate and similar, but I was very impressed by the senior ranking of so many women in the industry.

This simple review demonstrates that women are clearly growing in power, prestige, and leadership (see below for the outstanding women that made this event happen), but they still don’t have an equal presence in our industry. I will likely share further thoughts on this topic in an upcoming blog as I think there are changes occurring that increase the opportunity for improved female industry presence.

Scheduled Meetings More Beneficial: I have traditionally not scheduled meetings at this conference unless they were specifically deal related.  Instead, I have usually spent most of my time walking the floor and having spontaneous meetings which always proved more valuable. I am very much rethinking this strategy for next year as scheduling more meetings may have been more productive.

Back to Palm Springs in 2024?  If true (and it probably is) the ICSC Western Conference will return to Palm Springs in 2024. Although I love San Diego, I also really enjoyed when the conference was in Palm Springs many years ago. Palm Springs provides easy access for many via Palm Springs airport, but also great access for those coming from Arizona and Nevada. It is a pleasant place to stay for a longer weekend which will hopefully encourage a greater presence on the 2nd day of the conference. There are plenty of hotels and restaurants as well as beautiful scenery. Keep an eye out for updates directly from ICSC.

THANK YOU to the ICSC Volunteers: We appreciate the efforts of all those on the ICSC planning committee who I think deserve greater recognition for their efforts. I’d recommend that ICSC more prominently share their names on the ICSC website and in the At a Glance brochure. This year they included Randee Stratton with Newmark, Natalie Pebbles with Jersey Mike’s, Vicky Hammond with Coreland Companies and Carmelita Botelho with Grocery Outlet. You are all awesome to dedicate your time outside of your very busy professional careers to making these event such a success.

Finally, as always, it is truly the people that make the show and in a business driven largely by relationships it was great to reconnect with so many of our industry friends as well as make new acquaintances. I hope you found this blog insightful and feel free to reach out to me at with any thoughts or feedback.