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Tuesday, January 15, 2019

NRF 2019: big, bold, inclusive

The National Retail Federation's annual convention, held Jan. 13 to 15 at New York's Jacob Javits Convention Center, provided approximately 37,000 attendees with keynote and panel presentations, interactive exhibits and guided tours of iconic New York City stores.

In opening comments, NRF president and CEO Matthew Shay cited improving economic conditions and strong holiday spending as positive signs of retail sector growth. These factors, combined with channel convergence, brick-and-mortar innovation and new business models, will sustain retail industry growth, he stated.

"Retailers recognize that today's consumers want shopping to flow seamlessly across channels," Shay said. "Related investments in technology, digital, experiential shopping and the supply chain are now paying off and setting retailers up for the next phase of the industry's evolution."

Star-studded venue

The NRF positioned retail's Big Show as a marketplace of ideas and workshops designed to promote networking. Event organizers encouraged participants to try out best-in-class experiences, and learn from 792 exhibitors, 517 speakers and 200 sessions with more than 100 hours of content.

Live, interactive exhibits in the Innovation Lab and Start-up Zone featured drones, wearables, augmented and virtual reality, smart tech, robotics, and smart cars. Networking opportunities included retailer-supplier meetups, business-to-business networking and opportunities for real-time engagement through the NRF mobile app.

Specially curated sessions included the following:

  • Featured speakers Chip and Joanna Gaines, co-founders of home design company Magnolia, described how they parlayed a love of home design into a thriving lifestyle brand.

  • Moderator CNBC reporter Steve Liesman explored global economic impacts on retail with panelists Dr. Janet Yellen, former chair, Board of Governors, Federal Reserve System, and Kara Swisher, co-founder and editor-at-large at Recode and Recode Decode Podcast hostl.

  • NRF president and CEO Matthew Shay interviewed Brian Cornell, board chairman and CEO of Target Corp. on the retail brand's digital transformation.

  • Wall Street Journal reporter Sara Castellanos interviewed Walmart's chief information officer, Clay Johnson, and chief technology officer, Jeremy King, about the use of advanced technologies to transform the customer experience and bridge the gap between digital and physical shopping.

  • Stephanie Mehta, editor-in-chief at Fast Company, interviewed Jamie Nordstrom, president of Nordstrom Stores Inc., about the company's 117-year history, philosophy and innovations.

  • The Girls' Lounge, powered by The Female Quotient, provided presentations and panel discussions by female leaders in retail and technology,

Big show fits all sizes

Described as "the moment where retail convenes to kick off the year with a unified ambition," NRF 2019 offered curated content for students; women executives; tech startups; and security, supply chain and payments industry experts. Event organizers acknowledged that the Big Show has become more inclusive in recent years, celebrating both leaders and rising stars in retail's expanding universe. The NRF is not just for big brands anymore, they stated.

Retail has become more global and more local, Shay noted. As retailers transform their stores to meet the needs of regional customers, the retail landscape is becoming more diversified. This diversity is also reflected by a growing number of new entrants and businesses in the retail ecosystem, he said. Innovators are freely experimenting, growing and pioneering new paths, and barriers to entry have never been lower.

While rising interest rates, an ongoing government shutdown and escalating trade war with China may present near-term headwinds, Shay said he remains optimistic that the retail industry's strong fundamentals will deliver continued growth in 2019 and beyond. end of article

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