Takeaways From NRF’s Big Show

February 8, 2023

This month I was fortunate enough to attend NRF’s Big Show at the Javits Center in New York City. Having come from a retail family and a retail background, this was my seventh NRF and my first in three years after two years away due to the pandemic.

It was great to be back in person at the show, connecting with clients, friends, former colleagues, and the who’s who of the retail world. Perhaps most amazing to me was that the show managed to get bigger! According to NRF President and CEO Matthew Shay, it was a record year in terms of exhibitors, with more than 1,000, and estimations that it would exceed 35,000 attendees. 

Here are some takeaways:

In-person events are as important as ever

We’re all familiar with the ongoing debate between the importance of the office compared to a hybrid or remote model. While here at Bospar we’re partial to our version of virtual office life, we’re extremely bullish on the future of in-person events. While trade shows are incredibly expensive, costing tens of thousands of dollars, there’s simply no replacing the amount of connections, interactions, leads, impressions, business, and press opportunities in such a short amount of time. From a media, analyst and influencer perspective, we pride ourselves on helping our clients increase their event ROI, building pre- and post-show buzz and booking as many briefings as possible to create visibility in ways that drive growth for our clients. 

Ecommerce and in-store continue to converge in interesting ways

We’ve heard about omnichannel for so long that the word has sort of lost all meaning. However, the dichotomy between ecommerce and in-store remains interesting, as both covet what the other does well. For most shoppers, ecommerce cannot replace an in-store experience, but AI and web3 technologies are beginning to erode some of those advantages. In-store strives to match the personalization, customization and data of the online experience. Digital displays, frictionless checkouts and in-store shopping analytics technologies continue to bring more of online’s advantages into the store. It will be interesting to see how these paradigms continue to evolve. 

Why is this show still on Martin Luther King Jr. Day?

This holiday fell right in the middle of this year’s show. Next year’s show will, too. Most, if not all, of the seven shows I’ve attended have been this way. Is there a particular reason this is still a thing? While NRF has done its part to address Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day through DEI initiatives, holding the show over this holiday weekend feels, at best, inconvenient and, at worst, inconsiderate. So, continuing to plan this important show over such an important holiday seems like a major gaffe. Doing something because that’s the way it has always been done is never a good reason for a tradition to continue. 

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About the author

Kevin Martin is a PR veteran recognized as an adept strategist who provides practical, creative solutions to real-world communications challenges. Kevin specializes in fintech, adtech and insurtech, as well as B2B companies serving retailers, CPGs and other industries. He has served on the board of multiple startups and nonprofits and is a proud Loyola University Chicago alumnus and season ticket holder.