The International Council of Shopping Centers is gearing up to host its 4th annual regional convention in Puerto Rico in February 2014, with an agenda of presentations that seek, among other objectives, to lay out opportunities for local retailers to export their goods and services, event organizers told this media outlet in an interview Monday.
This year’s conference will feature networking opportunities with developers, investors, retailers, franchisors, designers, architects and other retail real estate professionals. Additionally, there will be a shopping center tour of several centers in San Juan, a retail runway, and a trade expo.
Jorge Lizán, vice president of business development of the ICSC, said the group that comprises more than 60,000 members in more than 100 countries chose to repeat its meeting in Puerto Rico, as it is the ideal platform to show visiting retailers “the most important Caribbean market in commercial terms.”
Furthermore, the exchange should help local retailers see the opportunities beyond Puerto Rico’s geographic scope.
“There are many success stories to be found here, as well as advisory and interactive opportunities from which we can learn a lot as well as identify with,” said Jorge Galliano, the ICSC’s program planning committee chair and executive president of retail chain Gatsby.
“Local companies will also have the chance to learn about opportunities available in the region and the rest of the world, which is where Puerto Rican companies should be looking toward to expand their businesses,” he said. “It’s a way through which local companies can learn business formulas that we may not be used to applying, to be more competitive.”
Gatsby is one example of a Puerto Rican retail chain that has looked beyond Puerto Rico to grow its business. The company has stores in Venezuela and the Dominican Republic, and is looking to introduce its Funky Soul concept to Guatemala, Costa Rica, El Salvador and Nicaragua.
“None of these places are expecting or waiting for us. We have to start somewhere, and it’s necessary to rethink everything that we do, because ultimately, it’s that type of growth that allows us to be more competitive in Puerto Rico,” he said.
Lizán added: “What companies learn abroad is used here, precisely to compete against those who come to do business here. It’s critical for Puerto Rican companies to go out and compete in the global arena, otherwise they’re destined to lose here.”Jorge Galliano, the ICSC’s program planning committee chair and executive president of retail chain Gatsby.
Full agenda of presentations
On the agenda is a series of presentations by industry executives who will discuss topics such as “Retail as a Critical Part of Cities Health: Downtown Miami,” a case study exploring how a once inhospitable urban center has been revitalized and converted into a vibrant retail zone.
“This took place through a public-private partnership with the government. In Puerto Rico, there are good opportunities to incentivize development, not only of shopping centers, but of mixed-use projects,” Lizán said. “There are opportunities in Puerto Rico and the Caribbean to redevelop or revitalize certain zones. For example, Old San Juan is doing well, but many urban centers aren’t.”
Also on deck to speak is Popular Inc. President Richard Carrión, who will provide an economic overview of the Caribbean region, to highlight which jurisdictions are doing well, and which sectors are benefitting.
“It’s important to note that this is a region with an important mass of people, with different cultures and different ways of doing business. They also represent an important business opportunity,” Lizán said.