For the 101s t time, the National Retail Federation will defy the wintry elements of New York City in January by convening its Annual Expo and Convention, aka Retail’s BIG Show, from Sunday through Wednesday at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center on the far west side of Manhattan. (Actually, temperatures should be in the 30's and could spike to the mid-40' s on Tuesday, so it’s not too bad.)
This conference, while principally geared toward the nonfood, fashion and general merchandise sectors of retail -- the likes of Neiman Marcus, L.L. Bean and Crate & Barrel –– has in recent years attracted a growing number of food retail attendees and speakers. Grocery companies speaking at this year’s show include Whole Foods Market, Wal-Mart, Winn-Dixie, Sobey’s and Family Dollar. Whole Foods, in fact, has been named NRF’s Retail Innovator of the Year, an award that will be accepted at the show by co-CEO Walter Robb, who will also be speaking at a Tuesday super session called “Conscious Capitalism.”
On the attendee side, Kroger will be represented at Monday night’s press-and-executive reception at the 21 Club, which my colleague and co-blogger Mark Hamstra will attend, while I plan to personally meet with the IT execs from Loblaw and Foodland at the show. NRF’s technology standards division, the Association of Retail Technology Standards, also includes a number of food retailing companies. I expect to see many grocery execs walking the show floor and attending sessions.
Speaking of technology, of the more than 400 exhibitors at the show, most are from the technology side, including a large number that market to the grocery industry. Many use the NRF show to make major announcements.
Of course, the show’s keynote event will be a Monday morning speech by former president Bill Clinton entitled, “Embracing Our Common Humanity.” In this turbulent and divisive election year, that sounds like an appropriate theme. I recall seeing former first lady, former New York senator, and current secretary of state Hillary Clinton give a presentation at the NRF show several years ago; perhaps she will give Bill some ideas about how to relate to a retail audience, though he probably doesn’t need any.