This article was first published in the Winter 2014 issue of Speak
How would you describe the current state of the retail industry?
Retail is going through a tremendous amount of change right now. From innovations that allow for same-day shipping to mobile technologies and more, retail is revolutionising the way consumers connect with their favourite brands. On the economic side of things, it’s clear that confidence has picked up and the economy is growing – albeit slowly. But we are optimistic about holiday sales and consumer spending over the next few months, and think retailers will have a positive holiday season.
What have been the prominent themes in the industry in 2014?
So far, some of the biggest themes have been in the shipping and fulfilment area. Many companies are working diligently to see if same-day shipping works for their brand, and if it does, how to roll it out nationwide. Also, growth in mobile use by consumers and the technologies surrounding that have been widely discussed. As a trade association, we also work with our leaders in Washington DC to lobby on behalf of retailers of all shapes and sizes. Some of the biggest issues this year have been sales tax fairness and data security. Since both of these issues directly impact the consumer, there’s no question that they both rank as prominent themes in the industry right now.
What topics and trends will be covered at this year’s Big Show?
This year’s theme is ‘BIG Picture’, so we will be looking at the industry from many perspectives, covering both the big picture of the industry as a whole, but also gaining the specific insights from those who are actively changing the face of the industry.
One topic that will be covered is the building of brands around passionate fans and creating immersive experience-based strategies in the sports industry. Many sports teams are using big data to deliver a new level of personalised experience for their followers. Speakers for this topic include Paraag Marathe, president of the San Francisco 49ers, and John Collins, COO of the National Hockey League.
Other topics that will be prominent include the growth of online and mobile commerce, how shoppers, retailers and suppliers engage with one another, and developing a more integrated approach that places digital at the heart of the modern retail shopping experience.
Can we expect anything new from
the 2015 event?
We hope to enjoy another year of growth. We work hard each year to improve the customer experience by responding to feedback and reviewing new processes and technologies. Our biggest change in 2015 is the addition of an Expo day. For the first time we will open the Expo on Sunday. This will allow attendees more time to see the amazing products and technologies on show. It will also allow retailers who can’t get away from their office during the week to preview what technologies are heading their way.
What are the key focuses of the National Retail Federation going forward?
Retail is such a dynamic industry, and at any given time NRF could be deep in the throes of releasing research around consumer spending or preparing for the BIG Show and its 30,000 attendees. If our members have a need, we will work to meet it. We represent large, small, independent and even online retailers, so there’s no single issue or focus we concentrate on. We also work more closely with universities and students than we ever have before to showcase retail as a dynamic and rewarding career opportunity. At the end of the day, we have 100 employees at NRF working on behalf of millions of retail companies, and we only ever put their needs first.
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