NRF Big Show Affords Insight, Guidance

Trade Shows

Former NRF CEO Mike George delivered opening remarks, praising the resiliency of retailers, who “stepped up” to service their customers. | Photo courtesy of NRF

Former NRF CEO Mike George delivered opening remarks, praising the resiliency of retailers, who “stepped up” to service their customers. | Photo courtesy of NRF

As of Thursday, February 3, 2022

During its Jan. 16–18 run at the Javits Center in New York City, the NRF 2022 Retail’s Big Show was hosted under the theme of “Accelerate.” This 112th installment featured 190 sessions, more than 300 speakers and over 700 exhibitors, with an expanded Innovation Lab and Startup Zone, and three new pavilions.

Welcome and opening remarks were provided by Mike George, former NRF chairman and chief executive officer, and former president and CEO of Qurate Retail Inc.

“It has been two years since we gathered here in person. And together we have come through a remarkable set of challenges. In 2020, the pandemic put the world on hold. But retail, retail never stopped,” George said. “We kept moving forward, striving, evolving to meet the rapidly changing needs of our customers and our communities. We stepped up.”

Noting the challenges the industry continues to face including supply-chain obstacles, continued COVID-19 barriers and a labor market in which nearly 1 million retail jobs remain open, George was hopeful. This optimism was fueled partially by a 2021 November–December holiday season during which the NRF reported retail-sales growth of 14.1 percent over 2020 to $886.7 billion.

“We have seen a tremendous recovery from the depth of the pandemic with year-over-year sales growth for 20 consecutive months. In fact, retail sales grew 14 percent in 2021,” George said. “That is the highest rate in over 20 years on top of 7 percent growth in 2020, all of it culminating in a record holiday season despite inflation, despite supply shortages, despite labor shortages and despite renewed concerns about the pandemic.”

The NRF revealed that it would be growing and evolving. In 2022, it will introduce two new events—the June NRF Supply Chain 360, which will take place in Cleveland with a focus on supply chain and sustainability. In July, NRF Nexus will be hosted in California with a focus on marketing, digital, technology and innovation professionals.

As interest in sustainability grows and pressure mounts on companies to adopt cleaner processes, the Big Show included discussions regarding steps toward greener practices. During the session “Reshaping Retail With Technology,” IBM Chief Executive Officer Arvind Krishna revealed how encouraging his partners to embrace sustainability is helping the company meet its goal to use 100 percent clean energy by 2030.

“When we began to look at this hard a few years ago, we discovered that about 30 percent of our energy usage was not necessary. So, 30 percent was not actually in terms of converting from non-clean to clean. Thirty percent was ‘Let’s just be much better in our footprint’ and then the remaining becomes—now that you’re using a smaller amount—you need less to clean,” Krishna explained. “If we say we only want to use clean, that way there is motivation for our partners to produce more clean energy.”