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Retail and Hospitality

Interview:

Previewing NRF 2013

With NRF 2013 only a short time away, Karen McCandless caught up with Dan Butler, vice president of retail operations at the organisation, to find out how retailers have fared over the last year and what’s new for 2013

The retail industry has been through a difficult few years, but how did it fare in 2012?
We said from the beginning that it would be a slow and gradual recovery, which is exactly what we’ve seen. In the US, sales have increased over the last 24-26 months. We’ve also seen unemployment in the US drop below eight per cent for the first time in some time while the economic indicators that we track (housing, recovery, banking and finance) are showing signs of recovery.

We will see new trends such as couch-commerce where people are shopping on their tablets while watching TV, as well as continued collaboration between major brands such as Target and Neiman Marcus

Dan Butler, NRF
 
And what themes have been important in 2012?
In the last year, mobile has dominated the retail space. Consumers are adopting smartphones at a faster rate than ever before and are also now moving towards tablets. In the mobile space, we expect to see a lot of retailers moving away from using text messaging in their promotions to video content. Meanwhile, retailers are looking at what they can learn from the technology leaders such as Microsoft and Amazon, as these companies and their products are shaping consumer behaviour of the future. International expansion, with a specific focus on the emerging BRIC markets like Brazil and India, as well as China, has been key. Retailers are looking to China for examples of what’s new and fresh in store development and design. All of these tie together with experiential shopping. Most retailers know that consumers won’t spend as much time in their store as they once did, so they have to make the experience much better. It’s also not enough to be involved in every channel; retailers need to provide a seamless shopping experience. So, as you can see, the pace of change is picking up speed! Two CEOs from major retailers told me that they hadn’t seen as much change in retail in the last two or three years in the entire time they’ve been working in the industry.

How will you be incorporating these themes into your 2013 show?

We will be touching on a number of the themes we have seen this year at the show. At NRF 2013, we will be talking about global expansion into emerging markets; what’s next in digital retailing (emerging marketing and merchandising trends); organisational structure; social and mobile; the future of POS; corporate social responsibility and conscious capitalism (looking at job creation and economic impact); and the impact of global economic uncertainty.

What will be new at NRF 2013?
We work hard to make sure we have fresh offerings each year and, for us, it’s all about the attendee experience. We are now offering registration at two host hotels, meaning delegates can register more easily and avoid long queues at the conference centre. We’ve also added a members-only happiness lounge, which is sponsored by Coca Cola; we will continue to host an international lounge; and, with our large Brazilian presence, we will translate all sessions into Spanish and Portuguese. We’re also expanding to level one of the conference centre for the first time ever and opening a third expo hall, which sold out very quickly. Before long, we will have the whole Javits Convention Center to ourselves! And, as the industry becomes more tech-savvy, we’re trying to make our show that way as well by expanding our mobile and digital content, and using digital signage and handheld devices wherever appropriate.

What initiatives is NRF focusing on at the moment?
Our Retail Means Jobs initiative is very important for us. This campaign emphasises the economic significance of retail and encourages policymakers to support a jobs, innovation and consumer value agenda aimed at boosting economic growth and job creation. We will then evolve this from Retail Means Jobs to Retail Means Careers. We have also started an Integrated Mobile Initiative to help businesses develop, enhance and grow their mobile initiatives. And our ARTS division is working with vendors and the retail community to make technology available to retailers at affordable prices.

And what do you expect to see in 2013?
We’re cautiously optimistic that the industry will continue to grow. We will also see new trends such as couch-commerce where people are shopping on their tablets while watching TV, as well as continued collaboration between major brands such as the Target-Neiman Marcus partnership. Amazon will continue to worry retailers, even among retail giants like Walmart, which has now stopped selling Kindles. Luxury will continue to be an area of growth while Uniqlo will likely become one of the largest, if not the largest, apparel retailer in the world. Digital, mobile and social will continue to evolve and, finally, big data will be key.

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