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NRF: The show report

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Emma Herrod, editor of Internet Retailing magazine, recently attended the NRF’s Annual Convention and Expo, organised by the US National Retail Federation in New York. Here is her report from the event.

by Emma Herrod

How to sum up the recent NRF show? The exhibition hall can be condensed to one word, albeit hyphenated, and that’s omni-channel. It was everywhere on almost every exhibition stand and from talking to retailers at the show it is an area that US retailers are working on as hard as their counterparts in the UK. One global retailer, unable to find a seat in a full supplier workshop, commented that they were working on a roadmap for integration of systems for single view of customers but that they were “two years off full implementation”.

The conference drew the serious sides of retailing with keynote presentations covering a call for government to reform the 35% corporate tax rate and open up the visa system for more skills to be recruited from outside of the US, opening markets abroad and global expansion, and Kofi Annan, former UN Secretary-General, speaking about the link between peace and prosperity in global markets. “There can be no long term development without stability and no stability without development but based on the rule of law and respect for human rights,” he commented.

Retail has an important part to play not only in creating jobs but by bringing small suppliers and individuals into their supply chain. “Train them and help them meet standards,” he said, expanding into how cocoa is produced by small-scale farmers without the logistics to supply direct to multinationals. Global players can also have an influence on policy but, “you don’t need a law to pay a living wage or to provide clean drinking water,” he said. In a message that echoes those on the global expansion path he commented: “Don’t walk into a situation and believe you know better than the locals”.

Receiving the NRF Gold Medal award Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos commented that “there are a bunch of people working their butts off for customers” and “it’s great to get this award on behalf of these people [Amazon employees through the world].” When speaking about delivering the first Amazon order himself he said that “I did not expect to happen what has happened. We had exceptional planetary alignment.” We, “like to invent, pioneer... go down dark alleys; some open into wide vistas, others are a dead end... we’re still having fun.”

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