Feature Story: It’s official: Retail has discovered healthcare

Annual ICSC RECon retail real estate event focuses on healthcare for the first time

By Murray W. Wolf

The educational sessions about healthcare real estate at the ICSC RECon retail real estate show in Las Vegas this week attracted standing room only crowds. (HREI photo)

Held annually at the Las Vegas Convention Center, the International Council of Shopping Centers (ICSC) RECon global convention for the shopping center industry is one of the largest trade shows conducted in the United States. Last year, it was the 15th largest such event with more than 1,000 exhibitors and more than 35,000 attendees. Attendance was similar for the 2019 edition of RECon, which wraps up its three-day run this afternoon.

But RECon had at least one thing this year that it had never had before: a dedicated focus on healthcare real estate. For the first time, ICSC promoted a Health and Wellness Center – kind of a conference within a conference – to bring health and wellness tenants together with retail real estate decisionmakers.

Naturally, we at Healthcare Real Estate Insights decided we better check this out. As anyone involved in healthcare real estate (HRE) well knows, retailization – or, as some call, medtail – has been a red-hot strategy in recent years. So we were curious as to why ICSC decided now was the time to take a closer look at healthcare.

Obviously, a cynic might say, “Of course retail real estate professionals have suddenly developed an interest in healthcare tenants. Online retail has taken such a bite out of bricks-and-mortar retail sales they would welcome just about any opportunity to fill the vacant spaces left behind by the likes of everyone from Sears and Kmart to Toys ‘R’ Us and Victoria’s Secret.”

Maybe. But there’s a lot more to it than that, according to ICSC executives. For one thing, fears of a “retail apocalypse” are overblown, they say. For another, the new Health and Wellness Center was simply an idea whose time had come.

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