Photos - local - RETAIL28-BB 386535862 Shopping Cart icon Buy Photo
Attendees gather at the JLL booth during RECon at the Las Vegas Convention Center Monday, May 22, 2017, in Las Vegas. RECon is the largest retail real estate convention with more than 37,000 attendees representing 58 countries.

LAS VEGAS — In the 1990s, the mantra for retail stores was much like the one from the baseball movie Field of Dreams: If you build it, they will come.

Attendees gather at the JLL booth during RECon at the Las Vegas Convention Center Monday, May 22, 2017, in Las Vegas. RECon is the largest retail real estate convention with more than 37,000 attendees representing 58 countries. Slideshow icon Slideshow

Why retail is not dead, say experts at Las Vegas gathering

Consumers, hungry for new product and a convenient place to shop, did just that.

And a large footprint symbolized profitability and success for retailers.

“It was about building shops and filling them with as much product as possible, and getting people to buy as quickly as possible and leave,” said Ross Bailey, CEO and founder of New York-based Appear Here, which rents space to pop-up stores.

Bailey moderated a panel at the International Council of Shopping Centers’ RECon confab here last week, called “The Anna Wintour Effect: Why Landlords Need to Think More Like Editors.”

That means edit out the losers.

RECon, considered the largest retail real estate gathering of its kind, attracted more than 37,000 mall owners, developers, retailers, and brokers, among others, from 58 countries for three days of networking and deal-making.

The message this year was clear: Retail isn’t dying, but evolving, and those that fail to invest online are being pushed aside or off the cliff.

Some of retail’s biggest names are caught in an online race to keep up with the e-commerce competition that includes Amazon. Several are reducing their footprint to have a more agile fleet to react quicker to changes in consumer demand.

Target chief executive officer Brian Cornell announced this year that his company was investing $7 billion over the next three years in digital and supply-chain enhancements. The company has hired more than 1,000 engineers over the last two years and launched a revamped Target.com last year.

“We’re putting digital first and evolving our stores, digital channels, and supply chain to work together as a smart network that delivers on everything guests love about Target,” Cornell said.

The effort is paying off. Last year marked the third straight year of close to 30 percent gain in annual online sales growth.

The brand with the largest store count in the United States, Walmart, is also mounting a full-court press online.

“We’re being pretty active. We’re behind and we’re trying to catch up,” Marc Lore, CEO and president of Walmart eCommerce U.S., said in March during the Re/Code Technology Conference here. He was addressing the company’s acquisitions of online companies jet.com, shoebuy.com,…