Summer 2011
SPREE 2011: The Biggest Yet

An increased global focus, standing-room only seminars, and busy exhibit halls were but a few of the hallmarks of SPREE 2011. With all attendance and exhibitor participation records busted, this year’s show decisively proved that SPREE has become the “must-attend” show in the specialty retail industry.

Bill Berdie’s experience at the Specialty Retail Entrepreneur Expo seemed to exemplify this year’s show. “I didn’t know what to expect coming here, but it was a great show. I was constantly busy and very pleased with how well received our products were,” said Berdie, Vice President and COO of Art Form Fine Collectibles.

The seventh annual SPREE held at The Sands Expo Center at the Venetian in Las Vegas, NV opened on April 12 with the largest number of exhibitors and attendees in the show’s history. As the economy and retail sales continue to rebound, a sense of renewed optimism and excitement about the future of specialty retail was almost tangible on the show floor.

Berdie of Art Form, was just one of many vendors and participants at SPREE who expressed this optimism. Art Form, based in Las Vegas, NV, manufactures small, jeweled trinket boxes, many encrusted with Swarovski crystals; the company was a first-time exhibitor at SPREE and an associate sponsor of the show. The handmade boxes were well received by numerous types of retailers, from those selling sunglasses to those looking for a seasonal product, Berdie noted.

Art Form also directly benefited from SPREE’s increased global focus this year. Berdie reported that he inked a deal with an operator from Moscow, Russia and had promising interest from Canadian operators as well.

Exhibitors and attendees see bigger, bolder SPREE

Debbie Lahti, the trade show director, said she was extremely excited about the show’s 50 percent increase in exhibitors’ booths this year, totaling just under 300. Attendance was also much higher as final registration figures documented a record 2,400 attendees. Many exhibitors were equally impressed by the qualified and wide range of attendees at this year’s SPREE. Amit Fridman, President of Smoke Free, a company that sells electronic cigarettes worldwide said he had “a crazy amount of interest” in his product line and that the attendees who came to his booth seemed more knowledgeable than he’s typically used to seeing at shows.

With bigger and flashier booths, many exhibitors had a bigger and bolder show presence this year. John Buhler, Senior Special Projects Manager with Stak Design, a kiosk and trade-show booth designer, said that he was impressed not only by the booth designs this year but also by the variety of retailers and products at the show. Lahti sees the larger booth presence as proof that exhibitors are looking at SPREE as the must-attend show in the industry. “As SPREE’s reputation for being the pre-eminent tradeshow for the cart and kiosk industry grows, our exhibitors are growing their presence because they know they will ink deals [here],” Lahti said.

Many exhibitors brought brand new booths to the show, including SPREE’s premier sponsor, Bellapierre. Their booth included lighted make-up stations, and professional makeup artists offered makeovers. Bellapierre launched their new makeup kit, Legally Blonde—inspired by the hit movie. Customers use the kit to recreate the lead character, Elle Wood’s, famous look.

Richard Hanson, Bellapierre’s sales manager and CFO said he feels more confidence that the economy is finally coming back. He was also excited to announce that Bellapierre products will soon be featured on the home shopping channel in Canada. Additionally, Bellapierre is ready to launch kiosks within department stores in malls overseas, said company CEO and founder David Oren. He also said that growth overseas had quadrupled in recent months.

Among the other companies expanding their footprint at SPREE this year, was Cellairis, also a SPREE sponsor. The company brought a larger, new booth to SPREE. Its bright white and tangerine color palette was complemented by large flat-screen televisions and rows of the company’s signature sparkly, jewel-encrusted cell phone cases and accessories. Joe Ciardullo, Chief Marketing Officer for Cellairis, said attendees noticed Cellairis’ bolder presence at SPREE. “We took our presence at SPREE to the next level this year because we want to be a strong brand builder and we want to be recognized,” he said. In addition to showing off a new booth, Cellairis highlighted a line of fashionable cell phone cases and announced a partnership to design a line of limited edition cellphone case accessories with fashion video bloggers Elle and Blair Fowler.

Not to be outdone, Specialty Retail Report, which hosts SPREE, also had a larger booth this year. At the booth, attendees got a chance to try their hand at the “Wheel of Fortune.” An iPad and Visa gift cards were among the many prizes distributed. Specialty Retail Report celebrated its fifteenth anniversary at the booth with a special cake cut by publisher, Patricia Norins.

Specialty Retail Report also launched Specialty Retail Pulse, a new industry performance report for specialty retail executives, at SPREE. The project will be conducted in coordination with the market research company, Alexander Babbage. Company executives from the Atlanta-based company were on hand to answer questions about the report and to recruit mall managers into the project.

New features

In addition to being the largest show in its seven-year history, this year’s SPREE featured numerous exciting new additions. The day before SPREE opened its doors, the Specialty Leasing Summit got underway at The Sands Expo Center at the Venetian. The Specialty Leasing Summit was created in conjunction with SPREE to provide a training program and networking platform for leasing professionals in the specialty retail field. The program was designed to be an intensive, one-and-a-half-day professional development summit to help those in the specialty leasing field to gain new tenants, retain and grow existing ones, increase revenue and profits, and advance their careers. For more coverage of the summit, please refer to sidebar.

Also enjoying a great deal of attendee interest and buzz was the new Inventor Zone, a section of the trade show for a select group of inventors with retail-ready products to showcase. The Inventor Zone was developed as a partnership between the United Inventors Association with Mark Reyland serving as its Executive Director, and Specialty Retail Report. It was sponsored by Inventors Warehouse, a service that guides inventors on the path to commercialization. The Zone showcased unique products like The Original BootCuffs, faux fur boot cuffs, and the Spin Gym, a gyrotronic resistance-training device.

Forbes Riley, founder of the SpinGym and first-time SPREE exhibitor, was impressed with the interest attendees expressed for her product. Her show table seemed to be a popular stop for attendees to watch while she demonstrated her strength-training, workout device. “I just can’t believe the response I’ve received here,” said Riley, “I’m thrilled!” The Inventor Zone also bestowed awards for the best products. Please see sidebar for further coverage.

Increased use of online tools and social media were one of the hallmarks of this year’s SPREE. Attendees were encouraged to tweet live on the floor and SPREE’s Facebook page was lively with attendee pictures and posts. New this year was the SPREE mobile app courtesy of TapWalk, that helped attendees navigate the conference, connect with exhibitors, and stay updated about the latest show news.

Greater global focus

SPREE has always been a popular trade show for international specialty retailers and business opportunities. However, this 
year, SPREE increased its global focus by offering special seminars, international speakers and trade representatives to help specialty retailers explore opportunities to expand their businesses worldwide. The show hosted seminars and expert panels on breaking into the Canadian market and understanding import/export guidelines. Also available were representatives from the Canadian consulate and the U.S. Department of Commerce to talk about the Canadian market and the legalities of opening and doing business in Canada as well as the opportunities that exist for specialty retail in Canada.

“The world is getting smaller and smaller and now specialty retail is in shopping centers across the globe—like Dubai, Moscow, France, the UK, and beyond. SPREE 2011’s global emphasis will be the focus of the future in this industry,” said Deborah S. Kravitz, Principal, Provenzano Resources, Inc. and the moderator of the “Understanding the Global Specialty Retail Market” seminar. Kravitz reviewed specialty leasing projects around the globe including the Middle East and highlighted differences in specialty retail between the United States and the Middle East. Adding to the global perspective were experts familiar with specialty leasing operations in the United Kingdom, Australia and Germany. Among the countries represented at SPREE 2011, were Afghanistan, Australia, Brazil, Japan, Guatemala, Israel and South Africa to name just a few.

A plethora of popular products

Creative jewelry concepts seemed to be a big hit at this year’s show with exhibitors such as Brissys, based in Las Vegas, NV, making Pandora-like charm bracelets onsite for those that came by their booth.

There were numerous new products to pique customer interest. Of particular appeal were products tailored toward technology—such as the AppleCore, a product designed to hold together cables without clutter; Road Mice—wireless computer mice modeled like cars; and USB storage devices shaped like bracelets that are increasingly trending up on college campuses. Also, Sizzle Hair Extensions introduced its line of quick and easy to apply hair extensions that do not use clips, glue or weaving.

Cell phone products and accessories are a perennial hit at SPREE and this year was no different. Vinh Tran, President of Ghost Armor, based in Phoenix, AZ, was on hand to demonstrate his company’s protective film for mobile devices made from the same material used to protect military helicopter rotor blades from sand spray in Iraq and Afghanistan. He was impressed by the level of interest from operators at this year’s show and said he’s striving to stand out by offering operators heavy support and close contact to help them build their businesses.

Performance-enhancing wristbands were another popular product. Associate sponsor, LifeStrength, based in St. George, UT, made their debut at this year’s show with their revolutionary health technology. The young company, founded in November, showcased its mineral-infused performance wristbands, which are available in 14 colors. Company representatives Brandon Hunt and Bret Jorgensen said that their product is unique as the most highly charged bands with seven specific minerals and gemstones work to improve the wearer’s flexibility, endurance, and awareness.

Networking opportunities

Mall operators and developers displayed a prominent presence at SPREE this year. Jerry Jones of CBL Properties, one of the show’s sponsors, was delighted with the show’s rapid growth over the years and noted the palpable excitement on the floor. Developers like CBL Properties use SPREE as an opportunity to attract new operators and visit with existing ones, said Wendi Nowell, Regional Manager. “We loved having the time to chat with current operators like NYS and SolarX,” said Nowell. “It’s so nice to get to see people that normally we only talk to on the phone.” Nowell also said that CBL brought a larger than ever staff and thanks to the success of this year’s show, plans to make SPREE their main tradeshow next year.

Mall operator Daniel Person of the West Edmonton Mall and Mall of America echoed Nowell’s sentiment and said that “for us, it’s a great opportunity to meet and talk with our operators face to face. Retailers are the backbone of our business.” He also appreciated the opportunity to network with other mall developers to share ideas and solutions to common challenges they all face. He added that his company plans to expand their booth size and become a sponsor of next year’s show.

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Putting for Charity

The day before SPREE kicked off, about 30 golfers teed off for the First Annual Charity Golf Outing to benefit Camp Soaring Eagle. Show exhibitors, retailers, mall operators as well as friends and supporters of the camp gathered at the Las Vegas National Golf Club, located just off the Las Vegas Strip, for a day of great golf to benefit a good cause. Golfers played in a scramble format with four-person teams and competed for prizes—including a chance to win $10,000 for a hole-in-one. Proceeds from the outing and the show’s silent auction raised about $6,000 for Camp Soaring Eagle. “The weather was perfect and everyone involved seemed to have a great time,” said Debbie Lahti, SPREE Tradeshow Director.

Camp Soaring Eagle, started by American Kiosk Management founder Max James, is a camp that provides a special place where children with serious illnesses can forget about their ailments for a while and play like kids again in a medically safe environment. Camp Soaring Eagle serves children from Arizona, Nevada, New Mexico and Utah and services are all completely free of charge to the campers and their families.

More information about the camp can be found at

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Specialty Retail Hall of Fame Awards

Following SPREE’s opening day, show organizers hosted a welcome reception and presented the Specialty Retail Hall of Fame Awards. Patricia Norins, publisher of Specialty Retail Report presided over the awards presentation. A posthumous Lifetime Achievement Award was presented to Robert Norins, Patricia’s father and industry pioneer who started one of the first trade magazines for the national shopping center industry and played a founding role in establishing the presence of carts and kiosks in malls.

Jim Allen, Executive Vice President for Local Leasing at Simon, who was not able to attend, was also recognized for his recently bestowed Lifetime Achievement Award. The award for Specialty Leasing Director of the Year went to Suzanne Cayley of Ivanhoe Cambridge; and Specialty Leasing Manager of the Year was awarded to Carol West of Simon Property Group.

James Gilland, of Tricked Out Accessories, won the award for Specialty Retailer of the Year. As part of his acceptance speech, Gilland thanked all those in his staff, specialty retail, and mall management that have worked to help make his company successful. Each year, Hall of Fame Award recipients are nominated by fellow industry members and colleagues with winners chosen by a special awards committee established by Specialty Retail Report.

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Showcasing Innovation

This year, SPREE partnered with the United Inventors Association to bring the Inventor’s Zone, sponsored by Inventor’s Warehouse, to the show. The Inventor Zone capped off day one of SPREE with Mark Reyland, UIA Executive Director, hosting a special award presentation to recognize the Zone’s Best Overall Product. The award was presented to Meredith LaMirande, inventor of Dropper Stopper, a fashionable, machine-washable tether to keep baby items—like cups and toys—from hitting the floor. Awards to recognize two additional companies were presented to Flopeez, which makes neoprene, barefoot-like flip-flops and Accu-Text, makers of a finger stylus that enables easier use of small buttons and tiny keyboards. Inventor Zone award winners were chosen by members of the UIA.

Best Overall Product Winner, Meredith Lamirande, inventor of Dropper Stopper, based in San Antonio, TX started her company in 2009. Her sister-in-law had the idea and the two designed the product together. At her first trade show in Atlanta her product was so well received that she signed on 200 retailers. “SPREE has also been a great show for us,” said Lamirande, “expansion into malls is the natural next step for us.” She said that she had already signed new orders and made numerous promising contacts with domestic and international retailers at SPREE.

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Large Slate of Seminars

Each year’s SPREE includes a large selection of free, educational seminars held concurrently with the show during its second day. This year’s program included 20 different seminars that addressed all aspects of starting, operating, and marketing a specialty retail business.

Lori Lesko of Calendar Club was one of the presenters and her talk focused on seasonal opportunities available to both beginning and seasoned retailers. She evaluated risks including initial investment and return on profit for various models.

Much expanded this year was an international focus; the global specialty retail market took center stage first in a presentation moderated by Suzanne Cayley of Ivanhoe Cambridge. Presenters included a representative from the Canadian Consulate and the U.S. Commercial Service, an arm of the Department of Commerce; they referred participants to resources helpful to conduct business in Canada. An even more expanded global focus was the theme of another seminar moderated by Deborah Kravitz of Provenzano Resources. Louise Poole of MacArthur Glen was one of the presenters. She along with Byron Lewis from Lewis Commercialisation highlighted the differences in specialty retail between the U.K. and the United States. Kravitz, for her part, showcased projects recently executed in Dubai and elaborated on the differences in specialty leasing between the Middle East and the United States.

Provenzano Resources delivered other well-attended seminars about the nuts and bolts of the specialty retail business. Social media and email marketing were also popular topics of interest in seminars presented by Patricia Norins, publisher of Specialty Retail Report, and Melissa Kellogg, SRR contributor.

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Specialty Leasing 
Summit Launches

The day before SPREE opened its doors, the Specialty Leasing Summit got underway at The Sands Expo Center at the Venetian. The summit, which more than 120 leasing professionals attended, was created in conjunction with SPREE to provide a training program and networking platform for leasing professionals in the specialty retail field. The program was designed as a professional development certificate program that leads to a Specialty Leasing Designation (SLD)—the first in the industry.

The first day of the summit included classes taught by industry veterans like retail consultant Deborah Byrnes; Arleen Dalton of General Growth Properties and Jim Bieri, Principal at Bieri & Ames. Dufy Weir, Education Director for Specialty Retail Report, moderated the proceedings.

Among many points of discussion, Byrnes encouraged leasing managers to ferret out vital information from retailers such as the rent-to-sales ratio and accounts receivable reports. These reports, Byrnes said, told a lot about the health of existing merchants—a rent-to-sales ratio above 17%, for example, was to be considered an “at risk” merchant. Dalton outlined the principles behind prospecting and discussed strategies about how and where to look for new tenants.

The second day of the summit addressed additional topics geared toward leasing managers. Deborah Kravitz of Provenzano Resources addressed the retailer side of the equation in a lesson titled Retail Math: Understanding Your Merchant. In one of many interactive sessions, she asked leasing managers to guess the wholesale and retail prices of many of the popular products sold at carts and kiosks around the country. These included Pillow Pets and Kariza wraps. The lesson learned was that a strong markup was necessary to do well in the specialty retail business. Finally, Melissa Musico with Developers Diversified Realty, presented many creative ideas for generating additional center income through events and sponsorships.

Extensive role-playing and what-if scenarios added to the excitement and learning at all sessions. Attendees participated and traded formulas for success at their own centers; they were also given mini quizzes to test learned knowledge.

The attendees included a healthy mix of new and experienced professionals from all over the country and even U.S. territory, Guam. All attendees mingled at a coffee break designed for additional networking opportunities.

The Specialty Leasing Summit is part of a larger Specialty Leasing Manager Professional Development Program that contains courses in six main subject areas: Legal, deal-making, sales and marketing, sponsorship, retail, and documentation. “The consensus of our Designation Advisory Committee members was that we needed to offer a program such as this to train and develop industry leaders,” Weir said.

Just by attending all the sessions at the Specialty Leasing Summit, professionals can earn up to 10 credits toward the 30 total credits required to complete the program. The remaining courses will be offered throughout the year through webinars and at SPREE 2012. Professionals who missed the summit can still participate in the training program. Most courses from the summit are now available for purchase. For more information, about upcoming courses and to register, please visit or call Duffy Weir, Director of Education at 410-252-8885.

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Night at the Museum

SPREE’s networking sessions continued beyond the show floor at two social events. One was the presentation of the Hall of Fame Awards. The other was a social event at Madame Tussauds wax museum. Attendees got to mingle in a relaxed setting and pose with their favorite celebrities. The event was sponsored by Jones Lang Lasalle. Participants were encouraged to post their photos with celebrities, on SPREE’s Facebook page. The one with the most “likes”—which was Mike Bilkey singing with Prince—received a $100 Visa gift card.

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Who Wants to be the Next Retail Entrepreneur Star?

In an example of creative nurturing of new business, the Los Angeles Urban League launched a competition early this year, Who Wants to be the Next Entrepreneur Star. The competition provided the winner of the contest with an opportunity to be a specialty retail merchant at the Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Plaza rent-free for six months.

Provenzano Resources, a full service specialty retail consulting firm, provided critical strategic advice about merchandising and marketing the specialty retail business concepts. Professionals from the company also taught lessons about thriving in the specialty retail market.

Participants in the competition developed a comprehensive business plan, merchandising concepts and learned how to implement branding and marketing strategies. Three finalists were chosen and got a chance to attend SPREE. Barbara Lawson, owner of Barbara’s Delight Hand Painted Glassware; Michelle Lockert, owner of MiMi’s Handmade Body Butter; and Ronald Jackson, owner of Artistic Expressions Art & Jewelry Design, were the three finalists who attended SPREE.

At a ceremony on April 28, all three finalists won the competition in some way and were granted leases for varying amounts of time. The finalists receive assistance in strategic planning and budgeting at every stage in developing the retail business. They also receive assistance in product development and visual merchandising.

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