Margaret Caldwell should be with her team right now in Las Vegas, making last-minute preparations for face-to-face meetings during the biggest retail convention in the world.
Instead, Caldwell, a managing director and partner at Stan Johnson, is at home in Atlanta, checking her calendar for meetings with clients to discuss possible deals by phone or videoconference.
"Typically, around the time of Vegas, we are pitching a lot of business and bringing deals to market or trying to wrap up calls for offers from buyers," Caldwell said. "Clearly, we’re not doing either one of those, regardless of Vegas. It’s been a huge damper on the investment sales market."
To prevent the spread of the coronavirus and following state and local orders, the International Council of Shopping Centers in March canceled its annual RECon retail convention in Las Vegas. The group postponed its other events through August.
But with RECon and other live retail events canceled, retail industry players are adopting new ways to network, generate leads and get deals done in a challenging pandemic environment.
Caldwell, who specializes in selling shopping centers, said it is nice to take a break from the grind that is RECon. It can be a tiring event, she said.
"You have clients all over the world sitting in one large room. It's like speed dating," said Caldwell, who has been attending RECon for 20 years. "My days are usually filled, and I'm running what seems like 5 miles from meeting to meeting and attending multiple client events in the span of four days."
Even still, she, too, said that she finds herself meeting and talking with more clients these days than before.
"I have calls every 30 minutes or every hour with investors, heads of institutions or publicly traded companies," Caldwell said. "Frankly, I’m having better meetings now because I don't have to run from booth to booth. I have more time."
Still, Caldwell looks forward to attending live events. She has circled ICSC's New York Deal Making conference in December.
"I will definitely go back to RECon and other ICSC events," Caldwell said. "I am not scared, and it would not prevent me from going. I'm hopeful of the New York conference. It will probably have fewer people, but it is just as important an event."