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Summer 2012 SPREE 2012 Exceeds Expectations

A record number of attendees. Fun social events. The first graduating class from the Specialty Leasing Designation Program. This year’s SPREE was one to remember.

It was a time for networking. Salih Kandas had traveled to the Specialty Retail Entrepreneurs Expo from Chicago to reconnect with one of his vendors, PolarX. At the company’s SPREE booth, Kandas had a chance to review the latest lines of SolarX ornaments and to trade ideas for future success in the business.

Then there was Dr. Lawrence Wang, an optometrist from Las Vegas, who had heard that specialty retail was a great way to test the waters for a mall business. He decided to attend SPREE to shop for concepts and to get a sneak peek at the booming industry.

Kandas and Wang were among the more than a thousand retailers who, along with other industry professionals, attended another record-breaking SPREE this year. Held at the Paris Resort & Casino in Las Vegas from April 2-5, the eighth annual industry event exceeded all previous expectations for exhibitor presence and interest.

Blake Decarlo was one of many who were excited by the show’s energy and attendee enthusiasm. The account executive with SPREE sponsor, Bella Group, marveled at just how much growth SPREE had seen over the years. The Coppell, Texas-based company, which specializes in RMUs and kiosks for the industry, was a repeat exhibitor at SPREE and one of many who returned with a bolder footprint. Decarlo said the interest in the company’s products and overall energy at SPREE had been infectious. “There’s been a lot of spinoff business from SPREE. It has been great,” he said.


Raising the bar

More than 175 exhibitors delivered the very latest in specialty retail trends to participants as industry professionals marveled at the show’s increasing stature in the industry.

Debbie Lahti, the trade show director, said she was impressed by how much detail and attention exhibitors had paid to designing their booths and making them really stand out. Many exhibitors, including sponsor Cellairis, wooed the industry with standout kiosks attracting attention and foot traffic; the
175 exhibitors together occupied more than 300 booths. “It points to the stature of the show that exhibitors return year after year with bigger and bolder ideas,” Lahti said.

Also bigger and bolder was premier sponsor Bellapierre’s big push for SPREE—a cutting-edge kiosk design. Richard Hanson, the company’s director and founder, said the new kiosk was a perfect vehicle to showcase the cosmetics company’s wide range of products. Among the products that Bellapierre showed at SPREE this year, was a brand new line of nail polish in the season’s trendy bright, neon colors.


Basking in beauty

Beauty products such as Bellapierre’s, always one of the staples of the specialty retail industry, was a category well represented at SPREE this year. Deep Sea Cosmetics, for example, presented its Age Perfection Series at SPREE. The line includes a variety
of skincare products—mud masks, eye and skin creams, fillers—tailored for the specialty retail industry.

Making its debut at SPREE this year, was Da Vinci Cosmetics, with a wide array of mineral makeup products. Salvador Avila, Jr. with the company, said hardly any colors or shades of cosmetics are retired at all, which means greater choice for customers. The company offers up to 1,500% markup with no franchise fees.

Using an innovative attention-getting device, MICA Beauty Cosmetics had a woman on stilts parade around the show floor, and near the company booth, to draw attendees in. The Chatsworth, CA-based company highlighted a beauty line, “Jewels,” which is made with organic extracts.

A French line made with completely organic products, Marilou BIO, also made its debut at SPREE this year. The line consists of face masks, exfoliants and makeup removers, all made with organic ingredients.

Rounding off the beauty products were a whole assortment of accessories, including handbags made from recycled candy wrappers from Ollin and those made from abalone and water buffalo horn by the company Fashion by Design.

Jewelry too was a huge draw. Zirconmania, one of the show’s sponsors, showcased a new jewelry concept, which looks just like diamonds. The cubic zirconia is treated with a film of carbon diamond-like particles, to make the similarity to diamonds even more striking. Center Court’s Davinci bead jewelry was another vendor who drew big crowds at the show. Showcasing a variety of mix-and-match jewelry, the beads rely on a concept similar to Pandora’s. These ones are much less expensive, making them an interesting proposition for carts and kiosks. Smaller jewelry vendors such as Miguel Ferreira with his line of pressed flower jewelry also networked at SPREE and showed off new concepts.

Networking on show floor

It was not just wholesalers who exhibited at SPREE; the show showcased all the heavy hitters in the mall management industry as well. Major mall developers and REITS including Simon, GGP, CBL, Taubman, had a strong presence at SPREE.

Even before the show started, Suzanne Cayley of Ivanhoe Cambridge, a SPREE sponsor, was looking forward to a productive time. While Cayley, who was recognized as specialty leasing director of the year last year at SPREE, could not attend this year, there were many at Ivanhoe Cambridge who said the show had turned out great for them. “It’s been great, lots of meetings, we have been booking them all day,” said Margaret Allison, Regional Manager, Specialty Leasing and Partnerships at Conestoga Mall in Ontario, Canada.

Arleen Dalton, Vice President, Business Development at GGP, said the show provided a great opportunity to connect with old friends, make new contacts and grow business. Dalton, one of the speakers at the Specialty Leasing Summit, said General Growth Properties was a strong believer in education and had invested heavily in sending leasing professionals to the Summit (see sidebar) and SPREE.

These sentiments were echoed by Charisse Burks, National Specialty Leasing Coordinator at Taubman, also a SPREE sponsor. “It’s the best way to reach new retailers [and] see new merchandise; we do a lot of networking here, pick up a lot of new retailers every year,” Burks said.

Fab finds

As Burks expected, there was a lot of “new merchandise” to be shopped for at SPREE. Among these was a line of heatable plush toys, The Cozy Collection, from Pritty Imports. Ruth Hamilton, with the company, had a microwave at the ready in the booth as she handed a warm, lavender-scented plush to interested participants. The show was a great success for Hamilton.

Products for children in general, had a large presence at this year’s SPREE. My Talking Toddler, an award-winning series of DVDs meant to strengthen toddlers’ milestone achievements in speech and language, showcased their entire line at SPREE. The company was a show sponsor. Nick Molina from My Talking Toddler, said the company was looking to grow through the specialty retail segment and had priced turnkey packages for retailers to ease into. It costs $3,500 to get the turnkey package, which includes 200 sets of the DVDs, promotional DVD software and signage. Also enjoying attendee interest was a line of innovative toothbrushes, which sang jingles as kids brushed. A new series of toothbrushes from Brush Buddies, which trilled Justin Bieber tunes, was especially popular.

Also big for kids are glimmer tattoos from Glimmer Body Art that are a draw at both specialty retail outlets and fairs and other tourist attractions. Sharon Yu from MiniMe, a new personalization concept that captured 3-D photographic images on gift items, said the response at SPREE had been phenomenal. “We have been doing business like crazy. The number of kiosks investing in this concept is really growing,” Yu said.

A gelato cart shaped to look like an Italian Vespa mobile was one of the runaway fab finds at SPREE this year. Filippo Saccani with the gelato company, Amarino, said the concept was to premiere at Staten Island Mall, a GGP property, soon. It cost $50,000 to buy the concept, which included $10,000 in franchise fees. After that you only paid for supplies, no royalties, Saccani said. With flavors like pistachio, hazelnut, coffee and more exotic ones like mango, the line for a free sample snaked down the row every day of the show.

Familiar staples

Rounding off the product concepts at SPREE were new ideas in familiar industry categories such as cellphone accessories. Show sponsor Cellairis, had a huge new booth with new designs and styles and were looking to SPREE as a way of signing on more locations. David Ferber with StreetTalk loved the face time with the operators and developers. “It’s great meeting with people you only talk to over the phone or by email. It’s nice seeing them one on one, to strengthen relationships, it’s gone really well,” Ferber said.

At a nearby booth, Eran Shalom showcased iPlaynTalk’s line of Apple-tailored accessories, while a whole host of other companies exhibited tailored covers and other accessories for cellphones. New this year was a franchise concept, Cell Again, that recycled old cell phones.

Cart and kiosk manufacturers also attracted attention at SPREE. Creations Global showcased a variety of new designs including the modernistic looking Santiago kiosk. Chief Operating Officer of the company, Jac Crawford, said the units were all built to specifications provided by mall developers and represented the cutting-edge in kiosk design. He added that the outdoor units were among the most durable in the industry. Crawford showed many designs that had been in use in China and other countries around the world.

Not to be outdone, POS veterans NOVA (which was soon to premiere a mobile app) and XS-POS with its iPad-compatible POS solutions, also had a strong presence on the SPREE show floor.


Help yourself

As malls have increasingly looked to monetize unused floor space, the self-service industry has made increasing inroads in malls. This year’s SPREE was a testament to this trend with the highest number of self-serve concepts in years. Among the standouts were machines with DIY eyeglass cleaning concepts and minuteKEY, a machine that allows for precise duplication of keys. A machine that paid cash for cellphones, ecoATM, also made its debut at this year’s SPREE.

As mobile specialty retailing catches momentum, exhibitors at SPREE had their pulse on what could be needed in that arena. Mike Boyd from EZ Cart Systems displayed a couple of low-cost, quick set-up cart solutions for the market.

A healthy diversity of exhibitors from all the core product segments—jewelry, beauty, toys, cellphone accessories, POS systems, kiosk manufacturing—made SPREE a shopper’s paradise and a networking success.

All in all, the exhibitors and attendees were buoyed by the enthusiasm they carried back from the show. Regulars as well as first-time exhibitors said they appreciated the insights into the mechanics of the specialty retail market. First-time exhibitor Kate Montgomery, co-founder of Luv Ur Locker, a company that makes accessories for girls’ school lockers, said she was thankful for the peek into the mall market. “We’re really looking to make that push into the mall arena and [SPREE] helped us do that,” Montgomery said.

As the show drew to a close, attendees returned home with buoyed spirits and strong leads for new business opportunities. Blake Decarlo with Bella Group probably summed it up best: “SPREE has been great, we really racked up our presence this year. We have had a lot more meetings this year. Even when we were setting up in jeans and T-shirts, we had people coming up to us and expressing an interest in what they were seeing. It’s great. It really adds to the ROI of being here.”

Doing Good

The day before SPREE, on April 1, a special golf event helped raise funds for Camp Soaring Eagle, a camp for sick children in Arizona. Attendees enjoyed a bright sunny day out on the golf course at the Las Vegas National Golf Club. Raffle prizes included show tickets and great wine.

In keeping with the spirit of April Fool’s Day, a marshmallow golf drive was hosted. Participants had to hit a giant marshmallow and see how far they got—a driver was the prize. There was also a “worst drive hole,” where participants had to hit the ball that resulted from someone’s worst drive. Golfers could also roll a giant pair of dice to take some strokes off their score.

SolarX sunglasses further livened up the proceedings by distributing “crazy” sunglasses.

At SPREE, a silent auction was held for Camp Soaring Eagle, with donations from many SPREE vendors. Kerri Weiss with Camp Soaring Eagle said the non-profit organization was grateful for all the donations, which ranged from games such as Apples to Apples; to cosmetics like ProActiv and digital accessories. The most popular item at the auction was an iPad3 donated by Specialty Retail Report. “It certainly is getting a lot of attention; we’re really excited,” Weiss said. She was delighted at the success of the silent auction and golf tournament in raising money for Camp Soaring Eagle.

Hall of Fame Highlights

The third edition of the Specialty Retail Hall of Fame awards were presented at SPREE on April 3, at a special luncheon event sponsored by F. C. Dadson, a Greenville, WI-based RMU and kiosk manufacturer.

Marie VanDrisse from F. C. Dadson said the award winners were an example for all to follow. “They have provided accomplishments that we are all proud of,” VanDrisse said, while also thanking SPREE for the growth platform the show has provided.

Marc Winkelman, CEO and co-founder of Calendar Club, was honored by Patricia Norins, publisher of Specialty Retail Report, with a lifetime achievement award. She pointed to his generosity of spirit and sense of humor as strong points in his long and seasoned career. Norins also joked about Winkelman’s love of grammar. “I hear he has a secret passion for commas,” she said. In accepting the award, Winkelman acknowledged his love of language. “I am [indeed] a serial comma placer. Commas are important,” he laughed. Winkelman said he was deeply touched by the recognition and to share the title with Robert Norins, Patricia’s Norins’ late father, also an established icon in the industry. “Partnerships are an important part of this industry. This is very touching for me,” Winkelman said.

Denise Monahan with Jersey Gardens Mall, a Glimcher property in Elizabeth, NJ, was recognized as Specialty Leasing Manager of the Year. In a first for the awards, Monahan was nominated by one of her tenants. Monahan thanked Specialty Retail Report, Glimcher and her many tenants for the recognition.

Heidi Cardall from CBL was honored as the Specialty Leasing Director of the year—as someone who could handle everything with a smile. Cardall said she was humbled by the honor and it moved her to be recognized when so many of her talented peers were in attendance. “This means everything to me,” she said.

Tim Olfield from Gold Rush was honored as the Specialty Retailer of the Year. Rob Guthrie in picking up the award for Olfield, thanked Specialty Retail Report for the recognition.

Summit Season

Capitalizing on last year’s runaway success, the Specialty Leasing Summit returned this year, with new courses and a great line of speakers. The summit is specially designed to be an intensive event where participants learn the latest best practices in the industry. More than 130 registered leasing industry professionals participated in a series of lively presentations by veteran industry players.

The presentations, which took place over two days, addressed a variety of topics including—the specifics of specialty leasing legal documents; how to sell to prospective retailers, understanding the documentation process that is needed to execute a successful deal and ideas for deal making and networking. Jeri Erling, Senior Director of Sales Support at Westfield, livened up a potentially dull seminar on the deal documentation process, by throwing candy at participants as rewards for correct answers, or to keep them alert. Arleen Dalton, VP of Business Development at GGP, went over the basics of leasing and deal making, brainstormed ideas for creative deal making to “deal junkies,” and shared ideas for converting temporary leases to permanent ones.

Audience participation was high and many appreciated the opportunity to learn from their peers. Angela Scales, a specialty leasing manager at Southbay Pavilion in Carson, CA, said she loved knowing that many leasing managers across the country were going through similar issues as her and appreciated the opportunity the summit provided to brainstorm solutions. Dawn Collings, assistant general manager at Wenatchee Valley Mall in East Wenatchee, WA, said she attended the Summit because she wanted to get to know the tricks of the trade better. “It’s pertinent to my job, to network, to keep on top of what’s trending,” she said.

Specialty Leasing Designation: Class of 2012

A special graduation ceremony for Summit participants who qualified for the Specialty Leasing Designation, followed the Summit. Specialty Retail Report’s Education Director and coordinator of the SLD program, Duffy Weir, expressed appreciation at the enthusiastic participation in the Summit and was delighted that more than 65 leasing professionals qualified to graduate. “The closest thing to excellence is the appreciation of it,” she said and thanked the SLD advisory board, the Specialty Retail Report team, and publisher, Patricia Norins, for inviting her to lead and manage the program.

For her part, Norins thanked everyone involved in the program for their enthusiastic participation and congratulated the graduates. “In today’s challenging industry, opportunity remains strong for those professionals with training, the expertise and the networking capabilities needed to compete and succeed,” Norins said addressing the graduates, “We recognize this need and we are now creating a knowledge network—graduates will become a part of a select group of specialty retail leasing managers who have a greater understanding of the best practices in the industry,” she added.

Graduates walked down a red carpet and were presented with diplomas. Cake, champagne and confetti topped off the ceremony. Ellen Hildenbrand, an SLD graduate from GGP, said she appreciated the chance to further her skills in the industry through the specialty leasing designation program. “We all negotiate the same way, value our space the same way, it’s good to see most of us are on the same page,” she said. She added that she would love to see a panel with retailer participation so specialty leasing managers could hear retailer input on different things. “It would be nice to see their side of the fence,” Hildenbrand said.

Pat Fleser, the Director of Specialty Leasing at Glimcher, who served on the advisory board, said the summit served an important function in educating newer specialty leasing managers. She looked forward to a “master’s program” where leasing managers with more than five years’ experience could strengthen their skills. Fleser was excited that this program was launched at SPREE and is now in the planning stages. Fleser added that she would love to see a program for Directors/VPs be implemented—separate from the master’s program. “My role as a Director requires an entirely different set of skills than when I was SLM out in the field, and I would love to gather with my peers and share discussions/classes regarding motivation, analysis, national tenant negotiating, incentives, etc.,” she said.

Informational Seminars

On the second full day of SPREE, attendees got to choose from a variety of seminars that took place concurrently with the show. Deborah Kravitz from Provenzano Resources presented her popular series of lessons on how to launch and operate a successful specialty retail business. Retail 101 discussed the nuts and bolts of starting a specialty retail business, while Retail 102 focused on product choice. In Retail 101, Kravitz reminded a packed audience that you can’t sell a product you don’t love. “If nobody wants to sell it, nobody wants to buy it,” she said. Kravitz underscored her points with numerous examples including the one where a retailer at the Denver International Airport successfully sells beef jerky. What might traditionally be considered an unconventional product for a cart or kiosk, works because the retailer absolutely loves the product and sells it with passion, Kravitz pointed out.

Kravitz went on to visit business terminology for the industry including the differences between a license and a lease; and CAM (common area maintenance) charges. She explained how much inventory was needed to create strong sales—in general, Kravitz said, it is best to have four times as much merchandise as sales. In lively discussions, Kravitz elaborated on other business fundamentals including rent amounts and lease details.

Legal issues specialty retailers need to know, were the basis of Marc Feldman’s seminar, Understanding Your Legal Rights as a Tenant. Feldman, who is the Senior Vice President of New Business Development and Ancillary Income at DDR, went over the basic legal issues specialty retailers need to be familiar with before signing on the dotted line, including the specifics of temporary lease agreements.

Sean Ryan, director of marketing for Pinnacle Publishing Group (parent company of Specialty Retail Report), taught attendees marketing tricks for their specialty retail business using real-world examples. Buckle It Up, a popular cart retailer, formed a case study in the seminar and attendees evaluated the retailer’s value proposition and marketing strategies. New ones were suggested and tailored marketing events were devised. Ryan said the marketing ideas presented could easily be translated to almost any specialty retailer and encouraged attendees to think out of the box when it came to driving business sales.

SPREE also included seminars for specialty leasing professionals—increasing NOI with sponsorship and creative leasing strategies were evaluated in these.

Poornima Apte

Poornima Apte is the managing editor for GIFT SHOP, GREENRetailer and Specialty Retail Report magazines. She oversees and executes all editorial processes and is responsible for delivering editorial content for both magazines. To implement the magazines' editorial missions, Apte works with an extensive team of writers and photographers from across the country. She is also responsible for certain online deliverables including editorial content that complements the print edition of both magazines.

Prior to joining Pinnacle Publishing Group in 2006, Apte was Editor-in-Chief for INDIA New England, a bimonthly publication catering to the South Asian community in New England. In her role for the company, she oversaw an extensive editorial lineup featuring a wide variety of news reports and features. Apte first joined the newspaper as a general assignment reporter. Her reporting, specifically on a series of stories about Indian immigrants returning to their home country in the wake of India's economic boom, earned her a national award from the South Asian Journalists' Association at their 2005 convention held at Columbia University's School of Journalism.

Formally trained as an engineer, Apte made a gradual switch to journalism after a stint in technical writing at Abaqus, Inc. Apte enjoys reading and reviews contemporary literary fiction for in her spare time.

Apte earned an M.S. in Energy and Environmental Studies from Boston University and an M.S. in Mechanical Engineering from Southern Illinois University in Carbondale, IL.

Apte welcomes reader input. Please email her at

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