With a strong Black Friday under their belts, retail real estate pros are in good spirits as the annual ICSC New York National Conference and Dealmaking got underway on Monday.

The show is the second largest annual industry gathering, aside from the mammoth RECon show in Las Vegas each May. ICSC reported more than 6,200 pre-registrations for the show, exceeding the figures from recent years. Attendees packed the deal making halls soon after the floor opened at 9 AM and began the yearly ritual of swapping business cards, networking and looking at the latest projects and leasing availabilities on the boards.

Retailers are no longer pursuing concessions. Instead, more are talking about expansion plans and new concepts are again emerging. Experts hope that will make a dent in retail vacancies, which remained elevated through the end of the third quarter.

“We are grateful there are whole segments of the industry that are growing and taking up excess space,” ICSC Chairman David Henry said during his comments on the outlook for the sector. Henry is also president and CEO and New Hyde Park, New York-based Kimco Realty Corp.

The mood matched the findings of Jones Lang LaSalle’s North America Year-end Retail Outlook, which concludes that the sector, while facing obstacles, continues to edge tentatively toward recovery.

"Everyone, including consumers, is in a continued wait-and-see mode, delaying major buying and investment decisions until they see how several dynamics play out, including the elections next year," Jones Lang LaSalle Retail CEO & President Greg Maloney said in a statement. "Until we have some market certainty in the U.S. and overseas plus sustained high levels of consumer confidence driven by higher paychecks, a stronger stock market and an improved housing market, a robust recovery will elude the retail sector."

In the morning keynote, New York Mayor Mike Bloomberg extolled the virtues of the city, outlined the importance of retail to its economy, described some of recent lease signings and openings of major retailers and talked of other opportunities developers and retailers might find in the city’s five boroughs.

“During the past 10 years we’ve worked very hard to try to make sure that the growth of retailing, as well as the growth in our cultural institutions and job creation is through all five boroughs,” Bloomberg said.

In other show news, Columbia, S.C.-based shopping center owner Edens & Avant unveiled its rebranding as EDENS.

"In refining the EDENS brand, our new look and simplified name more accurately reflect what we do best: bringing excellence and design to retail development in our never-ending pursuit to enrich the communities where we're located," EDENS CEO said in a statement. "Our new brand also positions us as an innovative leader in the industry – a leader whose passion and business expertise has helped create connective, thriving retail that positively impacts people and places."

It is the third major retail real estate firm to rebrand in recent months. In September, Centro Properties Group US became Brixmor Property Group and Developers Diversified Realty Corp. changed its name to DDR Corp. and also unveiled a new logo, tagline and brand identity.