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Retail convention a medley of fast food, sporting goods and Laundromats

Inside South Hall, all the big names are present: Chase, McDonald’s, Cinnabon, Big 5 Sporting Goods, Bass Pro Shops and Ace Hardware. Real estate agents, developers, shopping center marketing staff and potential franchisees are walking the floor and making their appointments.

It’s RECon 2013, and about 35,000 retail real estate professionals are in Las Vegas through Wednesday to make deals, visit old friends and learn about the latest industry trends. The annual International Council of Shopping Centers convention attracted about 1,000 exhibitors this year covering roughly 1 million square feet of space at the Las Vegas Convention Center’s North, Central and South Halls. Attendance is up over 2012’s 32,000 but not quite back to the pre-recession “healthy” levels of 40,000, council spokesman Jesse Tron said.

In the North Hall, service companies are exhibiting and attracting mall marketing staff, maintenance and other retail center professionals. The hall is a mix of everything from liquid fireworks to driveway repair and lighting companies.

Real estate agent Bill Conlin attended RECon for his first time this year, and called the convention “a little overwhelming.” For the most part, he came to attend the numerous educational programs the show offers, and he watched a couple of the industry speakers during his time at the convention center.

“I wanted to attend because there were a few programs I thought would benefit me. I’m just getting into commercial real estate so here I am,” Conlin said.

In Central Hall, developers and real estate companies manned their booths, trying to attract tenants and establish new real estate partnerships through scheduled meetings.

In South Hall, smells of fast food took over as lines of attendees formed in front of exhibitors such as Jersey Mikes Subs that give away free samples. Just near them, Carvel gave away samples of ice cream, making the rear of South Hall look like a crowded train station.

Other exhibitors didn’t bring food but brought big guns of another kind.

Bass Pro Shops brought its exhibit that replicates its retail outlets but on a much smaller scale. The space featured a bowling ball return, race car, pool table and boat. Other big brands like 7-11, Yum and Wendy’s were represented, each of their booths consistently full with bodies during the show.

Sport Clips Haircuts, which just held its annual meeting in Las Vegas, also exhibited at RECon. The 20-year-old company has more than 1,000 stores throughout the U.S. and is expecting to open up to 200 locations this year and reach 2,000 locations in five to six years.

Spirit also exhibited, featuring a photo booth and haunted house theme façade outside its booth. The 30-year-old brand focuses on temporary Halloween stores and senior vice president Tony Detzi said business is good. Spirit will open 1,050 stores this Halloween season, with five in the Las Vegas area.

“We’ve increased every year since we’ve done this,” Detzi said.

Each year the company attends 25 trade shows, but Detzi said RECon is the most important. This is Spirit’s sixth year exhibiting.

“This year, surprisingly, we’re as busy as we’ve ever been,” Detzi said. “It’s very, very encouraging.”

At Speed Queen’s booth, the retail Laundromat had a handful of meetings early Tuesday afternoon.

“It’s going incredibly well. We’ve had a very steady flow of traffic with folks coming in specifically interested in speaking to Speed Queen about putting the Laundromat in their retail locations,” Becky Dunton, Speed Queen’s spokeswoman, said.

The company is seeking to open 100 new Laundromats this year.

Contact reporter Laura Carroll at lcarroll@reviewjournal.com or 702-380-4588. Follow @lscvegas on Twitter.

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