COVID-19 ICSC RECon Postponement: A State-by-State Analysis of Retail’s Biggest Show

Background

ICSC ReCon is the world’s leading conference for the shopping center industry and provides opportunities for deal-making, networking, and more for retail and real estate professionals. Attendance at ICSC ReCon 2019 was over 36,000, with visitors from all over the world. On March 13th, 2020 ICSC announced that they would postpone the conference indefinitely due to the COVID-19 outbreak, intending to protect the health of the attendees, exhibitors, and members.

This decision was a forward thinking one among a large number of postponements that crossed into all industries, as part of a larger global effort to engage in social distancing. Social distancing is a public health practice that attempts to reduce the number of opportunities for sick people to come into close contact with healthy people and therefore spread the virus. It can include mandatory closure of large events and gatherings as well as personal measures like maintaining physical distance between individuals.

Objective

Our objective was to identify where Americans who attended ICSC RECon 2019 in Las Vegas traveled from in order to provide a glimpse into the reach RECon has across the United States during a typical year. With news that ICSC RECon 2020 has been postponed due to COVID-19, we analyzed visitation patterns for the 2019 event to better understand the risk ICSC is mitigating by postponing the event. 

Ideally, by understanding the states of origin for 2019 attendees and comparing that to the most recent numbers of COVID-19 in each state, we’d be able to further validate the decision to postpone the event to protect the 30,000+ nationwide attendees. 

Methodology

Event attendance was identified by comparing mobile location signals of devices observed within the Las Vegas Convention Center during ICSC RECon 2019 to our global supply of mobile location data and noting the likely state of origin of those devices.

In order to determine whether or not a device was at the Las Vegas Convention Center during ICSC RECon 2019, we first utilized a precise retail boundary to accurately identify if/when a visit occurred in the Convention Center during the event. Our system then logged visits observed at the Convention Center during the conference, compared that to over 3 months of historical device data, and compiled an aggregated list of the likely origins of those de-identified devices. 

Analysis 

The density of each state was extrapolated by estimating 30,000 visitors to ICSC RECon 2019 and rounding to the nearest 10. 

This Choropleth Map represents the density of ICSC RECon 2019 attendees by origin state. The top five origin states that attendees travel from are Texas, California, Florida, Illinois, and New York. The impact such travel of 30,000+ attendees could have on the spread of COVID-19 can only be imagined, thanks to the postponement of the event.

RECon Rank of 2019 Event AttendanceU.S. StateRECon Percentage of 2019 Event AttendanceState Rank of Estimated U.S. Total Population, 2019State Percentage of Estimated U.S. Total Population, 2019COVID Confirmed
1Texas14.80%28.83%131
2California12.10%112.04%718
3Florida8.70%36.54%217
4Illinois6.00%63.86%161
5New York5.40%45.93%1708
6Georgia4.10%83.23%146
7Ohio3.60%73.56%67
8Colorado3.10%211.75%183
9New Jersey2.70%112.71%267
10Tennessee2.70%162.08%78
11Arizona2.50%142.22%20
12Pennsylvania2.50%53.90%115
13North Carolina2.30%93.20%66
14Indiana1.80%172.05%30
15Massachusetts1.80%152.10%218
16Michigan1.70%103.04%65
17Minnesota1.70%221.72%60
18Oklahoma1.70%281.21%19
19Missouri1.60%181.87%16
20Virginia1.40%122.60%67

The majority of ICSC RECon attendees were likely from Texas, California, Florida, or Illinois. When compared to the percentage each state makes up of the national population, we found that when we controlled for Nevada (the host state of RECon), the top 10 likely states of origin closely matched the distribution of population in the United States. 

When expanding the analysis to look at the top 20 likely states of origin, we found that both Colorado and Montana represented more attendees than their U.S. population percentage would suggest, while Pennsylvania represented less. 

When compared to the current distribution of known COVID-19 cases in the United States (as of March 17 at 8:54 p.m. ET), we found that 2 of the top 5 attendee origin states currently contain more COVID-19 cases than the rest of the country.

27% of event attendees typically travel from New York and California, both which currently have the most known COVID-19 cases in the United States. Texas, home to the largest number of event attendees, is currently reporting significantly less COVID-19 cases than New York and California.  

Conclusion

The top 5 attendee origin states currently account for 46% of the known COVID-19 cases in the United States, suggesting that by postponing the event, ICSC RECon is helping to distance attendees from states that would have otherwise not come into contact with the virus as quickly had they been gathered together at the Convention Center.

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