A clear vision for 2020 at the NRF

It was a delightful privilege to have attended one of the world’s biggest conference and exhibition events, which serves as a melting pot of fresh and relevant ideas in retail, technology, and consumer trends — the National Retail Federation 2020 Vision: The big show, in New York City.

The show, which was strategically held in Jacob K. Javits Convention Center, welcomed around 40,000 attendees from around 100 countries and showcased discussions from retail and technology leaders in about 200 sessions which are all interesting and insightful.

As the premier trade organization of retail and retail suppliers in the country, the Philippine Retailers Association (PRA) wouldn’t miss this awesome opportunity. Leading luminaries in the retail and technology industries were there to provide attendees the right vision on what we can expect from the retail industry this year and in the future.

Learning from retail visionaries

The chairman and CEO of BJ’s Wholesale Club Christopher Baldwin, who serves as the chairman of the NRF board of directors, opened the show. He emphasized the positive impact of retailers’ investments to make the lives of consumers better and their shopping experience more convenient.

Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella, who delivered the opening keynote, on the other hand, focused on the importance of technology in further developing the retail industry. Urging the retailers to develop technology as the core of their business and not merely depend on tech companies, he shared his thoughts on the future of retail and how technology can help transform the industry.

While the Philippines may not be as digitally or technologically advanced as many retailers in the US or the rest of the world, we are all embarking the path of going digital, and this is a good point, especially collecting data and using this as a tool on how we can further improve our services to our consumers and reach the right people with the right messaging.

There were also similarly interesting keynote sessions including a conversation between Walmart US president and CEO John Furner, and author and MIT Prof. Zeynep Ton, who discussed why retail jobs can be good jobs. They shared how work is changing and what retailers can explore in the current retail landscape when it comes to digital capabilities and employee opportunities.

While Kohl’s CEO Michelle Gass shared her own journey as Kohl’s leader. During her session, “The Visionary 2020,” Gass imparted her bold initiatives and innovative thinking transformed the company’s culture in embracing new ideas that can excite customers and allow the company to flourish in today’s dynamic retail environment, including creating strategic partnerships and continuously improving customer experience.

Immersing in the ocean of retail innovation

With over 800 exhibitors, the exhibit is really a massive marketplace for retail innovation. It was impossible to be able to visit all the booths, but going around the exhibit was such a delight — with all the revolutionary gizmos and strategies from robotics, to intelligent product display, and other AI-related innovations to drive efficiency in retail.

This year’s show was vibrant and disproved claims that retail is dying, especially in the US. To continue to be relevant, retailers need to reinvent and there were a lot of stories we listened to on how revolutionary companies have transformed in the midst of retail disruption and transformation. Some important words that resonated with me for the retail business to continuously progress were leadership, making a difference, the importance of data, and lastly, providing an exceptional employee and customer experience.