NRF Big Show 2022 returns to in-person format despite COVID challenges
Against all odds, the National Retail Federation’s Big Show 2022 once again brought retailers and suppliers face-to-face IRL from January 16-18 at the Javits Center in New York City. 112and annual show presented 190 sessions, over 300 speakers and 700+ exhibitors.
Outgoing NRF President Mike George, former President and CEO of Retail business, drew a parallel between the success of the event and the performance of the retail industry over the past two years: “Retailers have shown a willingness to embrace change, to find a better way, less matter the incredible hurdles, and to innovate faster than anyone ever thought possible,” George said during the opening day keynote presentations. “It’s been key to driving the economy and our industry forward – and now that consumers know what we’re capable of, they expect it.”
Even with a number of last-minute cancellations, the Big Show sessions provided a broad but detailed picture of the retail industry. The key themes of the presentations, which featured senior business executives, including Target, walmart, PepsiCo, Ikea, Albertson, best buy, IBM and Nordström, included:
- Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) Initiatives, emphasizing practical ways to translate ambitious goals into concrete actions, in part noting that diversity can contribute to a retailer’s bottom line by expanding its potential customer base;
- Durability, which has acquired a new urgency since the onset of COVID and has become part of the day-to-day operations of retailers, including IKEA. Javier Quiñones, who holds the dual titles of CEO and chief sustainability officer of IKEA US, noted that the company wants to make “sustainability affordable for as many people as possible, not just the few.” ;
- Growth Opportunities, including advice on selling luxury goods in China from Christina Fontana, Director of Strategic Partnerships at Alibaba Group, who highlighted the importance of social commerce, especially live streaming. In addition, Soft CEO Sumit Singh revealed that the company’s expansion into telehealth, veterinary practice support and pet insurance came from listening carefully to what Chewy’s 20 millions active customers have a say; and
- New technologies and platforms, including the fact that many companies (including Walmart, Ralph Lauren, Vans and Nike) are already exploring opportunities in the metaverse. Additionally, the NRF Innovation Lab presented 55 companies displaying everything from autonomous delivery robots and drones to reusable shipping and delivery packaging, 3D, AR and live streaming solutions.
Many leaders who spoke at NRF 2022 shared what they learned about leading companies and people during this difficult time:
“Over the past two years, more than ever before in my career, I’ve come to appreciate the importance of the culture at Target, which is all about caring, growing and winning together. During the pandemic, this commitment to culture has been bigger than ever and has played a bigger role in our success. I’m talking about taking care of our teams and our guests, and also making sure we’re focused on being a growing business [in terms of people’s] personal growth and development. Target success is about winning together as one team.” –Brian Cornell, CEO, Target
“Communication, innovation and perseverance should all be part of a leader’s toolkit. Add empathy, compassion, and listening skills, because if we are deaf as leaders to people’s needs, wants, and demands, we will end up in a suboptimal position. Curiosity and ownership are also two principles that leaders must demonstrate from above, and the culture must reflect this. As children we are born with a natural curiosity, but somehow when we grow up we assume and take things for granted. We want to encourage and also integrate the curiosity that drives the mechanisms within an organization. » – Sumit Singh, CEO, Chewy
“One of the things we had to do as a management team, and me personally, was to put our people at the center of everything. We don’t have a business model without healthy people, so it was about making sure we took the time to invest and respect people on the front lines. We have 70,000 workers in the United States and 60,000 of them manufacture, move or market our products. With consumers, it was about having a clear mind about the difficulty of the times. We have changed the way we communicate to consumers: we have fun products that make you happy and feel comfortable, but we know how difficult things are. » – Steven Williams, CEO, PepsiCo Foods North America
“My leadership skills are still being developed. The first phase was all about problem solving. Then it was about creating a machine to get things done. Now, I love getting people to do and accomplish things they didn’t think they could do. It’s incredibly satisfying. – Vivek Sankaran, CEO, Albertsons
Upcoming NRF Events
The association is optimistic about in-person meetings for 2022, with events including: