The retail industry will be able to sneak a peek at the latest innovative products and services at the 2001 ICSC Convention Trade Exposition Showcase.

The Trade Expo will be packed with companies showcasing concepts ranging from the newest software technology to the most recent shopping center designs. The 2001 Trade Expo opens at noon on Sunday, May 20th and runs through Tuesday, May 22nd.

Companies such as St. Paul, Minn.-based Smarte Carte Inc. have been showcasing products at the annual convention for nearly two decades. This year, Smarte Carte is planning to promote top-selling products such as its rental strollers and electronic lockers, and unveil a brand-new product — the Smarty Bear theme stroller. The strollers feature seats that are molded into the shape of colorful bears and a steering wheel to keep little hands busy.

“The idea is that if the kids are happy, then Mom or Dad's trip is a little more pleasant,” says Tammi Phippen, Smarte Carte's manager of marketing. Smarte Carte is testing the new theme strollers in about 13 malls, and the Trade Expo is the first time the new products will be shown to the industry. The strollers can be leased, purchased or used with Smarte Carte's self-serve stroller management system.

In addition, Smarte Carte continues to promote its basic strollers and double strollers, as well as its electronic lockers. Customers using the lockers pay a fee and receive a code to a computerized locker. The customer can use the code multiple times without being charged additional fees, which is convenient for shoppers who make several trips to stores, she adds.

The Trade Expo also highlights new trends in retail design and construction, such as the latest in lighting techniques. “The look people want these days is more natural lighting,” says Tom Minnon, sales and marketing manager at Manchester, N.H.-based Structures Unlimited Inc. Structures manufactures and installs large, clear span skylights that can cover openings up to 100 feet wide.

Structures will be showcasing its natural daylighting skylights for the retail environment. “They are designed to allow natural daylight into the building, without a lot of solar heat gain,” Minnon says. The insulated panels also prevent heat loss on cold days and allow for soft diffused light to enter the space, enabling true color rendition.

Structures also offers operable roof skylight systems that allow part of the skylight to be opened. The operable roof systems are popular in food courts, atriums and other courtyard settings.

Architecture

Among the design work to be shown, Arrowstreet Inc. will offer convention attendees a glimpse of its latest urban retail projects. The Somerville, Mass.-based architectural firm will highlight several of its recent and current design projects including the 8-acre Wisconsin Place in Washington, D.C. The mixed-use project features retail, underground parking, office and hotel components.

Providence Place in Providence, R.I., serves as another example of Arrowstreet's urban work. The 4 million sq. ft. project spans a river, an Amtrak train line and a city street.

Arrowstreet provides a variety of services to assist clients with the often complex process of urban design. “We pride ourselves on service to our clients and we are experts in the front-end or approval process,” says Rob Holt, an Arrowstreet associate principal. That approval process is especially important to urban projects for which approvals can take several years. Arrowstreet supports its clients by providing numerous design presentations for various planning boards and commissions.

Retail merchandising units

As rents increase, merchants need to showcase more products to produce an income that will support the business. Freestanding units play an important role in both traditional shopping malls and outdoor centers.

Creations at Dallas will be showcasing several products at the 2001 Trade Expo, including its increasingly popular outdoor units. Creations at Dallas produces about a dozen standard units in addition to its custom design projects, and it strives to create units that can help make the merchant more successful.

“We are making sure the cart or kiosk can accommodate a larger quantity of product,” says Sharon Loeff, designer and director of sales and marketing of common area units for Creations at Dallas.

Creations at Dallas has designed a new 5×10 ft. RMU that is worked from the exterior of the unit. The unit has different components that can be changed based on the needs of the merchant, such as opting for all glass showcases or open shelving. “The new design gives merchants more space, more flexibility and the ability to showcase more product,” Loeff says. The new unit was introduced in early 2001.

Another key component of emerging designs is removing bulky overhead structure on the units. “Our philosophy is that the cart or kiosk is the backdrop. The most important part is that the cart disappears and people see the product,” Loeff says.

Banners

The creation of banners and signage is becoming increasingly high tech among retailers. The convention provides a great opportunity to gather new ideas and view samples.

“We are working much more with computers in developing new processes,” says Mike Aurigemma, marketing director and co-owner of Seattle-based Highflying Banners Inc. “Technology development for use in designing and making banners is moving ahead by tremendous strides.”

Highflying Banners designs and manufactures custom flags and banners for interior and exterior use. Highflying Banners is celebrating its 25th year in business. “We do a wide variety of different banner processes from screen printing to four-color process screen printing, spot dying and our true specialty is sewn appliqué,” Aurigemma says.

The newest process Highflying Banners will be showcasing at the Trade Expo is digital dye printing. The technique uses a variety of images such as photographs, paintings or digital images, transferring the image to fabric. Although the technology has been around for a few years, the key difference now is that the images can be reproduced on multiple prints with greater consistency.

In addition, advances in the digital dye printing technology allow the images to be printed on a variety of fabrics and in different colors. In the past, the process was limited to using vinyl. “Now we can do digital dye printing on about 20 different materials,” Aurigemma says. Materials range from sheer fabrics and canvas to carpet. “The process is great for doing a small piece of carpeting for a welcome area, and it is much cheaper than having a custom carpet made,” he says.

The digital dye printing process is ideal for getting complicated images transferred to fabric. “Now there are no limits on the number of colors, shading and gradients, all of which were restricted before,” Aurigemma says.

Exterior signage

In addition to banners, exterior signage is an important consideration. Exterior signage companies such as Priority Sign Inc. are promoting full service for their clients.

“We handle sign programs for companies across the country,” says Craig White, president of Priority Sign. The company offers turnkey services that include design, manufacturing, shipping, installation and permit approvals at the property and city level. The company provides a wide range of signage products that include illuminated and non-illuminated channel letters, monuments, freestanding pylons, directionals and vinyl graphics.

One of the advantages of Priority Sign is the firm's ability to turn projects around quickly. Typical lead times from manufacture to installation runs about four weeks, depending on how long it takes to receive approvals from landlords and municipalities, White notes. Program staff is experienced, and many senior staffers average about 15 years in the signage industry. Headquartered in Sheboygan, Wis., Priority Sign also has offices in Chicago, Atlanta, Knoxville, Tenn., and Birmingham, Ala.

Ad Vice Inc. is a sign architect and contractor that specializes in exterior signage. “The way we do business is quite different from most sign companies,” says David Goodwin, president of Ad Vice. The Richmond, Va.-based firm designs, engineers and specifies the signage products in house, and then licenses wholesale manufacturers throughout the country for different product types.

After the sign is manufactured, Ad Vice coordinates the shipping and installation of the signage. “We use our proprietary project management software and manage the whole process so it becomes a truly turnkey project for the customer,” Goodwin says. Customers who choose Ad Vice end up working with a single entity to design, build and install their signage. “They never have to deal with subcontractors, designers or anyone at the permitting level,” he adds.

Ashland, Va.-based Image Works Inc. has implemented a unique new “competitive” design-build offer for exterior signs. Image Works has a track record of designing, engineering and building signs that spans nearly 30 years. But the competitive design-build concept is brand new.

Image Works prepares creative design solutions, and detailed specification drawings for competitive bidding, which allows the client to select bidders. “It is a way for a developer to get professional design and specification engineering from someone who knows how to build signs, and it allows for an apples to apples comparison in getting competitive bids,” says Emory Clotfelter, president of Image Works.

Image Works' objective is to win the order to build the sign. However, the company is encouraging clients to get competitive bids to make sure they are comfortable with the quote they receive from Image Works. “It ensures the customers that they are getting a competitive price,” Clotfelter says. Image Works provides custom signage and turnkey project management for multi-location rollouts or single-location projects across the country.

Flooring

Shopping center owners and managers will discover a variety of flooring options at the 2001 Trade Expo with products such as Ardex Inc.'s SD-T Concrete Topping. The decorative cement topping is applied over concrete in a thin layer about 1/4 to 1/2-inch thick. The topping adheres to the existing concrete, and essentially creates a new floor, says Dave Fabyonic, national accounts manager for Aliquippa, Pa.-based Ardex. The firm manufactures specialty cements that are used primarily in flooring applications.

One of the unique features of Ardex SD-T Concrete Topping is the ability to use different colors and patterns with a virtually unlimited color palette. “It allows the designer complete freedom to create a unique floor for a property,” Fabyonic says.

Another key flooring product is Ardex CD, a concrete dressing used to resurface any type of concrete. The company sells the concrete dressing as a resurfacer for exterior walkways. “This is a better alternative than tearing out a sidewalk and replacing it,” Fabyonic says.

Ardex CD can be applied over existing concrete in a thin layer about 1/8 to 1/16 inch thick. “The big advantage that we hear from shopping center owners is convenience to the customer,” Fabyonic says. The thin resurfacing layer is ready to accept foot traffic in two to three hours. In addition, it is less expensive compared to a complete tear-out. The materials for the Ardex CD method cost just 30 cents per sq. ft.

Increte Systems Inc. offers a variety of concrete floor and wall system products. The Tampa, Fla.-based firm is a full service manufacturer of decorative concrete products. Increte operates an extensive distributor network throughout the United States and 70 countries around the world.

One new Increte product is the Thin-Crete stamped concrete overlay system. Thin-Crete can be applied over an existing concrete slab that duplicates the aesthetic features of stone, slate, granite, brick or wood. “Thin-Crete is twice the strength of concrete so it is very, very durable,” says Mike Lowe Jr., marketing director at Increte Systems. In addition, Thin-Crete costs considerably less than natural materials.

“The product lends itself perfectly to retail applications because of the durability and aesthetics,” Lowe says.

Additional flooring products Increte plans to promote at the Trade Expo include the firm's Stamped Concrete system, used in new construction, and Stain-Crete. The Stamped Concrete system is frequently used in entryways and crosswalks. Because the system is applied in thicker, 4 to 6 inch slabs of concrete, the system allows for deeper patterns to be applied to the concrete.

Stain-Crete is a surface stain that is applied to existing concrete, which is typically used in renovation projects.

Increte also provides a cast-in-place architectural wall system that duplicates the look of hand laid stone. The poured concrete system has the added benefit of costing a fraction of traditional masonry work, and it takes a day or two to install compared to the weeks required for stone masonry work. In addition, because the system consists of poured concrete, it is very durable and requires little maintenance, Lowe adds.

Roofing

Providing the “cap” to successful retail areas, roofing systems are another key component in shopping centers. Maintenance on those systems ensures a long life, avoiding costly replacements.

Pegnato & Pegnato provides roof and HVAC repair and maintenance. “What we provide our clients is response anywhere in the nation, information and a commitment to fix things right the first time,” says Maryella Pegnato, president of Pegnato & Pegnato Building Systems Services in Marina Del Rey, Calif.

The company's call center is open round-the-clock, and technicians are dispatched 24 hours a day, seven days a week. “It's like having your own maintenance department at your fingertips nationwide,” she says.

Since it was founded in 1992, Pegnato & Pegnato has assessed roof systems on more than 30,000 large retail and commercial properties. The company has more than 33 million sq. ft. of roof under maintenance contract, and the company services buildings in all 50 states, as well as in Puerto Rico and Canada.

Play Equipment

As a value-added option for shoppers and customers, play areas can serve as a much-needed rest stop for weary parents and frustrated children. They can also serve as another theming area in the mall.

“The theming typically revolves around something of local interest,” says Brad Knight, a managing partner at Salt Lake City-based Knight Avanté. The company manufactures several architectural product lines for architects, owners and contractors that range from furniture to themed design elements.

Knight Avanté produces both standard and custom products for turnkey children's play areas that include equipment ranging from slides and climbing tunnels to safety flooring and soft foam play elements. One recent project for a shopping center in Pittsburgh features the city's three rivers, as well as local heroes and landmarks such as the Carnegie Library. Projects are often designed to create local interest by reflecting the feeling of a community, Knight says.

Most of the projects feature customized themes that draw upon aspects within a shopping center or the local community. The design elements are incorporated into the slides and tunnels within the play area. Typically, the play areas target children under the age of 10. “There is a lot of demand for a company that can take the reins and handle a project from design to fabrication to installation,” Knight says.

Finance

Retail remains a busy market niche for lenders, and there will be opportunities to interact with finance firms at the conference.

“We have a lot of funds available. We are still very active in this market, and we can close quickly,” says Tom Hantges, CEO of Las Vegas-based USA Capital, a private lender. The company provides real estate loans in the retail, industrial, office and multifamily sectors and typically finances loans between $1 million and $25 million. “We do soup to nuts financing — acquisitions, construction, bridge and take out loans,” Hantges says.

In 2000, the lender processed $400 million in loans. “I think we're going to surpass that this year with about $500 million,” Hantges says.

USA Capital also finances a number of bridge loans for retail property acquisition, repositioning and re-tenanting, Hantges notes. USA Capital has $200 million available for bridge loans in 2001. “We're seeing more bridge loans than ever on the retail side as traditional lending institutions start pulling back a little bit,” he says.

La Jolla, Calif.-based Imperial Capital Bank is another real estate lender that has been on an expansion track in recent years. The bank has more than tripled its asset base in the last five years to its current $1.5 billion in assets. In 2000, the bank recorded its 21st consecutive quarter of record profits. “The bank is definitely in a growth mode,” says Corey Henderson, vice president of commercial real estate lending for Imperial Capital Bank. “We're looking to acquire assets in various opportunities, and we're concentrating on the commercial real estate arena.”

Imperial Capital offers clients flexibility in structuring deals. Loan amounts typically range from $250,000 to $10 million, and Imperial will entertain loan amounts greater than $10 million with participating lenders. Imperial's real estate lending market covers the western United States as far east as Colorado. Currently, Imperial operates five loan production offices in California and one in Seattle. The lender plans to expand during second quarter with additional offices in Arizona, Utah and Colorado.

The bank offers a variety of commercial real estate financing products, ranging from bridge loans to construction loans. “This year, in addition to portfolio lending, our emphasis is on expanding our correspondent lending network to offer fixed-rate financing that we don't necessarily want to hold in the portfolio,” Henderson says.

Imperial is working with a number of institutions to develop exit strategies for those fixed-rate products. “A traditional deal for us is something not quite ready for conventional, long term lending,” Henderson says. “That is why the correspondent lending program is so important to us. We can accommodate those borrowers now.”

Demographic data

In addition to the many products and design samples, Census data also will be making a big splash at the 2001 convention. “The Census 2000 data will catch everyone's attention,” says David Huffman, managing director of CACI Marketing Systems in Chantilly, Va. The firm provides comprehensive solutions for customers with market analysis needs. CACI Marketing is unveiling its new CACI One product line at the ICSC Convention. “CACI One is what I consider the first integrated release of Census 2000 processed data,” Huffman says.

CACI Marketing will be releasing 2000 Census data and corresponding boundary files for use in desktop mapping applications. It can be useful because a retailer may ask what the 2000 population is for a specific trade area. The next question is how has that changed from 1990. “Those companies that regurgitate data will never be able to answer that second question,” Huffman says. But CACI One answers that question.

Other products CACI Marketing will be showcasing include CACI Online™, a Web-based reporting and mapping product. Clients can now order data reports and mapping via the Internet from CACI Online.

Census 2000 data is beginning to be released this spring, and the U.S. Census Bureau will continue to roll out information over the next two and a half years. “Census 2000 is a very big point of interest among businesses that are geographically based such as real estate and retail communities,” says Olivia Duane, executive vice president at SRC LLC in Orange, Calif. SRC provides Web-based, integrated micro-marketing solutions that maximize proprietary SRC technology and third-party data.

SRC plans to be one of the first companies to offer Census 2000 information, and the company is making the data available via its Web site at www.FreeDemographics.com. The first set of Census data will be accessible on FreeDemographics.com this month. The Web site also has a full release schedule of Census data.

SRC's Allocate technology is the key tool in the web-based application that manages the Census data. The Allocate technology gives users the ability to define their own geographic boundaries by using criteria such as counties, zip codes or a radius around a specific property. Another feature SRC offers on FreeDemographics.com is the ability to compare data such as population and average household incomes on a historical basis. The Web site carries 40 years of Census data, allowing users to compare 2000 numbers with 1990, 1980 and 1970 statistics.

SRC also will be promoting the custom Web-based applications the company is designing for firms such as Orlando-based Darden Restaurants, Inc. The Darden Site Analyzer instantly delivers demographic, development and competitive site information to the desktop by using a combination of demographic statistics from MapInfo, syndicated data from Restaurant Trends and Darden's own proprietary information. The custom applications help to streamline the site approval process.

New technologies

Firms continue to roll out the latest software versions to aid the retail industry in everything from property management to financial analysis. Denver-based J.D. Edwards World Solutions Company will be showcasing the new release of OneWorld® Xe. The Web-based application is an upgrade to the firm's World Applications software version. OneWorld Xe, which takes advantage of the latest technology and offers improved functionality, has been available since September. “All applications are completely integrated, and users have real-time access to information,” says Andrew Rains, worldwide real estate industry manager for J.D. Edwards. The company provides software solutions to the commercial real estate industry.

OneWorld Xe offers added efficiencies in different program suites that include back office financials, lease administration, facilities management applications, project management software, payroll, e-procurement and customer relationship management applications. The Web-based version allows users to access information and applications regardless of whether they are in a hotel room or on-site at a property.

“The system is extremely flexible,” Rains says. OneWorld Xe runs on a single database, and it is fully scalable so that it can accommodate up to several thousand users on the system. In addition, OneWorld Xe features a workflow engine that allows users to manage a portfolio efficiently. For example, the system will notify the user if a work order from a tenant is submitted or if a line item expense goes over budget.

OneWorld Xe also provides a portal that allows customers to create different portals to meet their needs. A customer can create portals for employee use with access to company information and applications, or it can create tenant portals that will allow the firm to distribute information direct to tenants, and also receive work orders and customer feedback direct from tenants.

Cleveland-based Management Reports International plans to unveil three new products at the ICSC convention. One notable release is MRI for Windows 2.0. The new version features significantly enhanced functionality to the existing product. Two other significant releases include the company's new LeaseFlow™ and Frontier™ products.

LeaseFlow builds on MRI's ForeSight™ product, which was introduced at the 2000 ICSC convention. “LeaseFlow allows an organization to integrate and streamline the entire leasing process so that the cost of leasing and the time and work that it takes to manage the process is significantly improved,” says Thomas Ricci, vice president of systems implementation services for MRI.

LeaseFlow integrates several functions such as customer relationship management and lease tracking. The system also can be set up to automate a company's own unique workflow organization. In addition, any documents relative to a lease deal are all managed and housed in the LeaseFlow application. The product is undergoing beta testing, and it will be officially released at the show.

Frontier is the industry's first Web-based role centric management solution. “It will allow us to set up that Web page with views and information that are specific to an individual's needs,” Ricci says. Frontier can tailor information to employees throughout a company, from the CFO to the accounts payable clerk.

One of the unique features of the product is that users can access data through a common browser. “The key is that it combines the latest web browser technologies with the latest work flow technologies, and it provides a gateway for managing information, accessing decision support tools, facilitating business work flow collaboration, and simplifying transaction processing — all online,” Ricci says.

This is the first year The Realm will be exhibiting all of its products under one booth. The Realm was formed in February 2000 through the acquisition of five leading commercial real estate technology firms: ARGUS Financial Software, B.J. Murray, CTI Limited, DYNA Software and NewStar Solutions.

The New York-based firm is a leader in the delivery of Internet-based process solutions for the commercial and residential real estate industry. “This year we will have one large booth showcasing both historic products and new products,” says Gregory Spevok, The Realm's chief marketing officer.

The Realm plans to promote several new products including Argus 9.0, CTIExpress, DYNA 10.0, REALMBudget and REALMCash. “REALMBudget is a dynamic budgeting tool that sets a new standard in budgeting in the industry,” Spevok says. REALMCash is an electronic bill payment and collections system that ties into existing property management tools. “The bottom line is that the owner achieves tremendous operational efficiencies internally because of the integration features,” Spevok says.

Site selection technology

Site selection is becoming easier with automated technology provided by firms such as Sausalito, Calif.-based Market Insite Group, formerly LOCATION-net. One of the tools the company will be showcasing at the Trade Expo is its Parallel Opportunity Index, a scoring index that recently received patent pending status in December. “It enables the customer to quickly compare trade areas, and predict the factors for success,” says Kathy Huber, president and CEO.

Retailers, for example, can use the index to compare criteria of a store to a potential new trade area to determine similarities. The scoring index takes much of the “guesswork” out of the site selection process, she adds. The technology also helps retailers, owners and marketing experts compare demographics and lifestyle information to identify how consumers within trade areas are spending their money.

LOCATION-net was formed in 1998 to give businesses a fast, efficient and effective tool to determine the best location. The company applies its proprietary scoring system to various public and proprietary databases to give businesses a customized solution to manage the risk associated with their real estate, distribution and marketing decisions. The name change occurred just recently.

“A lot of what we're bringing to the convention this year is putting technology in place to integrate information — whether it be demographics, lifestyle or location data — so users can quickly search and understand where their customers are,” Huber says. For example, Market Insite Group has developed a proprietary database of retailer locations that include chain-wide locations for more than 400 retailers. In addition, the company launched a mapping product for sale in late February.

Other features that are new this year include the company's Web-based products, which were launched in October. “With that comes the ability to score locations and maintain work space or properties online,” Huber says. The retailer or landlord now has the ability to maintain all of their stores or properties online, which allows the user to quickly compare locations.

Energy Management

One of the hot topics for retail owners and managers these days is energy efficiency. The energy crisis in California coupled with an increase in natural gas prices has prompted the retail industry to take a closer look at energy management systems. “The deregulation in California resulted in prices going up rather than down, and I think we're going to see more of that across the United States,” says Gene Ameduri, vice president of the facilities automation division at Roth Bros. Inc.

Youngstown, Ohio-based Roth Bros., a FirstEnergy company, is a national leader in the construction and building services markets. The company provides energy management services, as well as HVAC engineering and contracting, HVAC service, facilities automation, roofing, industrial and sheet metal fabrication, performance contracting and lighting systems.

Rising energy costs have prompted retail property owners to recognize the payback of investing in energy management systems, which help to control power usage with the ultimate goal of reducing costs. Energy management systems can be used to create efficiencies with solutions such as regulating energy usage during peak price periods, Ameduri notes.

Energy management systems on the market today also offer a variety of advanced features to help create efficiencies. For example, more accurate carbon dioxide sensors are available to help minimize the amount of outside air pumped into a facility in order to meet local building codes. Therefore, less money is spent on heating or cooling that fresh air, Ameduri says. “These systems are becoming increasingly sophisticated,” he adds.