NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- There is still reason for bricks-and-mortar stores to be optimistic in an e-commerce world, said Mike Kercheval, CEO of the International Council of Shopping Centers.
April's retail sales numbers came in flat but Kercheval doesn't see that as a serious cause for concern. "The growth rate is flat, but the level of spending is still pretty high," he said. "Just because you don't keep going up every month doesn't mean that the level of spending is not strong."
The RECon convention, which opens next week in Las Vegas, is the nation's largest retail convention, and Kercheval describes it as an "old-school leading indicator" about the state of the industry -- and in this case, a positive one. The 2015 RECon will have more attendees than it has since before the recession, and more companies exhibiting than ever before.
He said it's a good time to be a mall operator: Mall occupancy levels are back at pre-recession highs, despite the decline of some longtime department store chains like Sears (SHLD) that once anchored them. Absorbing the footprint of some of those fading anchors are formerly online-only retailers like Warby Parker, Athleta and Bonobos, as well as grocery stores and restaurants. He said there are now long waiting lists for mall space.