Takeaways from the ChainLinks National Conference 2019

What’s the best way to see downtown Denver?

With a scavenger hunt.

That’s how this year’s ChainLinks National Conference kicked off, giving attendees the chance to discover the city’s flourishing retail and redevelopment scene. The conference continued with two days of keynote speakers – sportswriter Rick Reilly, for example – and charitable causes like ChainLinks’ contribution to Craig Hospital in Englewood, Colorado. It was a chance for members to see the strength of the ChainLinks network and talk with other retail brokers from across the U.S. about what retail trends they’re helping to shape.

Here’s what we observed at the 2019 ChainLinks National Conference.

ChainLinks is stronger than ever

ChainLinks has grown into the top network of retail-focused real estate services for retailers, landlords, and investors. With more than 750 hand-picked retail brokers, ChainLinks collectively services more than 1,500 retailers and more than 400 landlords. It has a higher transaction volume than any other retail network in the country, with more than 60 million square feet leased or sold in 2018.

The 400 attendees at the national conference were a mix of seasoned experts and driven rookies, showing the depth of support provided across the network and a promising future for the organization.

Metro has been a part of the organization since 2013, and currently has members sitting on the Board of Directors and various Councils – including the Landlord Council, Regional Restaurant Council, and Regional Marketing Council – and other appointments within the network. ChainLinks gives us a network of some of the best, if not the best, brokers in each market, so we can always find the local insight we need on national projects.

Takeaways from the ChainLinks National Conference

As an active member of the ChainLinks network, Metro had a big presence at the conference. From our networking conversations and the keynotes, here are some of the biggest takeaways on the state of retail real estate right now:

  • Mixed-use is still dominating. It continues to be prominent across all projects, driven by investors’ desire to mitigate risk, make effective use of land in cities and suburbs, and appeal to millennial consumers’ demand for convenience.
  • Everyone loves food. Food continues to drive a lot of projects, especially fast-casual restaurants beloved by millennials and Gen Z. They pair well with mixed-use concepts and in 2018, almost four out of five restaurants opened by the top 500 chains were fast-casual. Even traditional retailers like Nordstrom and Tiffany & Co. are opening restaurants and cafes within their stores.
  • Clicks to bricks expands. Online retailers continue to move into brick-and-mortar stores, a trend expected to stretch into 2020. Warby Parker, Casper, Bonobos, Away, and other digitally-native brands are expanding to physical retail spaces as part of an omnichannel strategy targeting consumers wherever they shop, whether online or in person.
  • Tenant expansion in 2020. The economy is showing signs of strength. Unemployment is at historic lows and wages are rising. Consumer spending grew a healthy 2.9% in the third quarter of 2019, after jumping 4.6% the quarter before. The fire is hot and we can expect it to drive tenant expansion in the coming year.
  • CRE tech to flourish. The use of technology in servicing our retailers, owners, and investors will diversify and expand in 2020. Mobile phone geolocation data will improve and advanced service platforms will become a more useful tool in market assessment.

ChainLinks provides us with a strong network of retail real estate experts with eyes and ears on the ground in nearly every market across the country. Brokers are able to leverage their relationships within the network for insight on unfamiliar markets, deal structure, and sales performance for various tenants. That not only lets us stay on top of retail trends, but allows us to better guide our clients.

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