“I would love to say that retail is back, but that would be wrong,” said BJ’s Wholesale Club President and CEO Chris Baldwin with a pause. “Retail never went away,” he declared in opening remarks from the conference main stage. “As I stand here today, I can say that our industry is more healthy, vibrant, innovative, and exciting than ever.”
The National Retail Federation’s (NRF) Big Show hosted over 30,000 attendees January 13-15 at New York City’s Jacob Javits Convention Center. Technology was the centerpiece of the expo hall, where giant companies and start-ups alike demonstrated solutions to the many challenges facing the rapidly evolving state of omni-channel retailing.
While enhancing the customer experience was an obvious emphasis, loss prevention was not forgotten at the show. “This is my fortieth Big Show,” said Jim Paul, a retail technology pro who has spent the last fifteen Big Shows with ClickIt, a supplier of intelligent video solutions. “The great thing about this show is we get to talk directly to the IT folks in retail.”
The same sentiment was expressed by Hedgie Bartol, LPQ, of Axis; Cheryl Blake at Verisk Retail, and Guy Yehiav with Profitect.
One asset protection pyramid head said, “I come to the Big Show with my peers in IT and operations so we can walk the expo together to see the technology with enterprise-wide eyes. Instead of me coming back from an LP show and trying to convince the team to consider a solution, we can see it together and discuss how we all can make use of the technology.”
Zebra Technologies is an example of a large exhibitor showcasing solutions that address everything throughout the retail enterprise from supply chain to inventory control to associate management to customer service.
Another example is Sensormatic—the new brand replacing Tyco Retail Solutions. Their booth featured demos of a wide variety of applications available to retailers. One example was a self-return kiosk that allows customers to return items without assistance from store associates.
Next-generation self-checkout systems were demonstrated at a number of exhibits, including Checkpoint, that allow for mobile scan-and-go, verification of items, and solutions for identifying and removing EAS tags.
Notes from the Big Show
BJ’s Chris Baldwin, who also serves at NRF’s chairman, shared statistics about the impact of retail overall on the nation’s economy. The industry supports one in four jobs in the US (42 million workers) and contributes $2.6 trillion to the country’s GDP. In 2018, there were 2,000 net new store openings in 2018, and NRF expects 2018 retail sales to increase at least 4.5 percent over 2017.
Chairman of the Board and CEO of The Kroger Co. Rodney McMullen said about his company’s strategy, “We do not think it will be digital. We don’t think it will be physical. Retail will solve problems for customers. And its purpose driven. Retail is incredibly important. Most people their first job is somewhere in a retail store.”
Target Board Chairman and CEO Brian Cornell told attendees, “If you want to stay ahead, you always have to be putting the customer in the center of every decision you make.”
Next year’s NRF Big Show will be held January 12-14, 2020.