Regency Centers’ Fiala Named ICSC Chairman

Mary Lou Fiala (pictured), president and COO of shopping center developer Regency Centers, has been elected the chairman of the International Council of Shopping Centers for 2008-2009.  She succeeds Rene Tremblay, president of Ivanhoe Cambridge in Montreal.“Mary Lou’s unique knowledge of what it takes to be both a successful retailer and a successful shopping center developer will serve our members well,” Michael Kercheval, ICSC president and CEO, said in a news release.Fiala, who has been with Jacksonville, Fla.-based Regency Centers since 1998, has been a member of ICSC since 1997 and served on the Board of Trustees for the past five years. She oversees the operational management of Regency’s retail centers across the United States. As of March 31, the company owned 450 retail properties, including those held in co-investment partnerships, encompassing about 60 million square feet. Before joining Regency, she was managing director of Security Capital Global Strategic Group Inc. and senior vice president and director of stores for Macy’s East/Federated Department Stores. She has also been senior vice president of Henri Bendel and senior vice president and regional director of stores for Federated’s Burdine’s Division.Acknowledging that the economic slowdown is difficult for many retailers and developers, Fiala said her mission would be to “provide direction and answers to some very difficult issues facing all of us.”Fiala, who was elected to her new role at ICSC’s recent RECon meeting in Las Vegas, said in her acceptance speech, “We’re all in this together and to make our economy work we must find better and more innovative ways to improve our decisions in retail real estate development, store operations, diversity and dynamics in our work force and positive planning for the future.”She takes the chairmanship at a time when some retailers are closing stores and both retailers and developers are scaling back development plans. In a May 2 CPN article, ICSC research analyst John Connolly stated the number of reported store closing announcements in the first quarter of 2008 had already approached or surpassed some first-half totals of previous years. Twenty-eight retail chains announced 2,122 store closings in the first quarter, according to ICSC tracking. Of that number, 37.8 percent were apparel companies. At that time, Connolly expected the trend to continue throughout the year, perhaps reaching 6,500, the highest number of store closings since 2001. Vacancy rates are also expected to jump this year to as much as 10 to 12.5 percent. Areas hit hardest by the housing downturn, such as Las Vegas, Phoenix, Florida and parts of Southern California, would likely see the highest retail vacancy rates.Fiala, who could not be reached today for an interview, said at RECon that the industry has faced many economic challenges over the years such as the energy crisis in the 1970s and the current credit crunch. But she added the industry always comes back and it’s important to “learn to spring back into action at any given moment. Employing this philosophy, I believe that we’ll be better prepared to weather any economic forecast.”