The retail real estate market is at the tipping point where rents and prices will rise, and vacancy rates will drop, so those who hesitate will lose, the keynote speaker at the International Council of Shopping Centers leasing convention said Monday.
"Generally, when that big neon 'All Clear' sign goes up, it's too late," Jonathan Gray, global head of real estate of the Blackstone Group, told the people who rent, lease and buy retail real estate in New Jersey and New York.
Gray said serious economic concerns still persist, causing many retailers to follow the safe path and not expand. But, he said, "the conventional wisdom is often wrong," noting that the conventional wisdom would have told you to start a dot-com in 2000, or sell all your stock in 2009.
He said his company, which owns $16 billion worth of shopping centers totaling more than 120 million square feet, has seen mall-leasing activity increase by 2.7 percent this year and shopping center leases are up 3 percent.
Gray kicked off the annual "deal making" conference that draws thousands of retail brokers and potential tenants and buyers. The conference, held at the Hilton and Sheraton hotels in midtown Manhattan, runs today and Tuesday.
North Jersey retail brokers said they were encouraged by the number of meetings they had lined up to make deals. "It's the most upbeat I've heard people in the past five years," said Chuck Lanyard, president of The Goldstein Group, a retail brokerage based in Paramus.
Lanyard said The Goldstein Group is working with several retailers and restaurants looking to expand during 2013, including a new fast casual restaurant concept, Noodles & Co.