Emerging Trends from NRF 2019

Every January, New York City becomes the place to be if you are a retailer looking for the latest digital innovation or snippet of information to save your stores from becoming obsolete. The National Retail Federation’s Big Show – aka NRF 2019 – saw 37,000 attendees descend on the Javits Center next to the freezing Hudson River, eager to hear from a few of the 517 speakers and see the technology on offer from the 792 vendors taking up 265,000 square feet of space in the gigantic exhibition hall.

After a difficult year in both politics and business, it’s understandable that many retailers attended the show concerned for the future of their industry. But CEO of BJ’s Wholesale Club and chairman of the NRF, Christopher Baldwin, kicked off the conference with a much more positive message: “Rumors of our demise are greatly exaggerated,” he said. “I’d love to say retail is back, but I’d be wrong – retail never went away.” Baldwin insisted retail is “more healthy and vibrant than ever,” listing Macy’s, Target and Walmart as retail leaders and industry innovators. And after three days racking up our step count at the Javits, it is clear that retail isn’t dead. Innovation was bursting out of the expo hall, while the conference sessions were brimming with case studies from retailers leveraging technology to create excellent customer experience and at the end of the day, improve their bottom line. And the biggest trend from NRF 2019 was that the store isn’t going anywhere – in his opening keynote, Baldwin pointed to the 2,000 net store openings seen in the US last year. But the overarching message from the conference sessions warned that stores have to change to remain relevant and keep up with the digitally-savvy consumer.

Reflecting this sentiment, Isobar’s Head of Innovation Projects, Alex Hamilton, believes that the store is a retailer’s most significant sales channel, with the majority of retail sales taking place in physical locations despite the rise of online. But, Alex warns that stores are increasingly becoming a cost centre that brands are struggling to bear. Retailers need to make their physical spaces work harder, in order to drive sales per square foot.

Download the full report here: “NRF 2019: Emerging Trends”