The BIG Show Is Back

Expansion, customer engagement among convention themes

With an eye on expansion, both from customer engagement and operational perspectives, retailers are eager to revitalize their brands and overall shopping experiences, according to industry experts. The upcoming 102nd annual NRF Convention & EXPO, produced by The National Retail Federation, Washington, D.C., promises to educate attendees on these and other business strategies.

The event, known throughout the industry as “Retail’s BIG Show,” will set up shop at the Jacob K. Javits Center, in New York City, Jan. 13 to 16, 2013. NRF reported a record attendance of 25,500 domestic and international delegates, comprised of retail executives, vendors and consultants last year, and “we are expecting an increase at this year’s show,” said Eric Olson, VP education strategies, NRF.

Olson credits part of this increase to an ever-growing delegation of international executives, especially those from Mexico, South America, South Africa, even as far away as Australia.

“NRF Annual is truly a worldwide-known event for retailers, and they all attend in hopes of learning what will be the next generation of retail innovation,” Olson said.

A common area of interest for all attendees, both domestic and abroad, is how to expand business into new areas and then localize operations on this new turf. Specifically, NRF reported that international expansion and operating in emerging markets, including Brazil, China and India, is one of two key retail growth drivers.

“Retailers, such as Nordstrom and others, have made international expansion part of their business model, and others are interested in learning how this can help propel business moving forward,” Olson explained.

To help retailers understand the importance of this path, NRF is dedicating at least eight sessions to the topic, including “Emerging Consumers from Emerging Markets: The New Retail Frontier” and “What Will it Take to Thrive in the Global Arena?”

The other growth driver is the proliferation of digital technology steering the omni-channel experience both inside and outside of the store. Add in consumers’ smart device adoption, and retailers finally have a way to localize conversations, promotions and pricing to build loyalty in the slowly recovering economy.

“Digital solutions are what retailers need to revitalize the store experience, especially as more millennials enter the marketplace,” Olson said. “One session that illustrates this will be ‘Retail Re-imagined – Conversations on Storytelling, the Customer Experience and What’s Next!,’ a 20-minute presentation that talks about how to use dynamic ideas to turn retail on its head and inject new life into the consumer experience.”

Before delving into these sessions and other retail tracks, NRF will set the tone of the conference with keynote sessions that provide insight into how the global economy is impacting the retail industry. For example, Monday’s keynote speaker, Kofi Annan, secretary-general, United Nations, will discuss the “Building Strong Nations: The Pillars to a Prosperous Society.”

“The discussion will focus on diplomacy and retail’s role in the larger global economy across emerging markets,” Olson said. “We are excited to hear his perspective and learn about the impact retail has on the global economy.”

On Tuesday, Bill Simon, president and CEO of Wal-Mart U.S., will present “A Job to Do: Retail’s Role in an American Renewal,” discussing how retailers must lead based on the big issues that matter to customers and communities, such as the economy and job creation.

“Retail is the engine for this country’s economic recovery, and we’re eager to hear about how Wal-Mart is fulfilling that role and how other retailers can play their part in America’s renewal,” NRF president and CEO Matthew Shay said in a statement.

Besides joining these keynotes and other sessions within the show’s extensive educational agenda, NRF encourages attendees to delve deeper into industry issues “during meetings on the show’s EXPO floor as well as through networking,” Olson said.

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