After months of preparation and anticipation for NRF’s Big Show, I arrived at the Javits Center in New York City early Saturday morning ready for the event of the year to begin, and of course to make sure our booth setup was going smoothly. Weaving my way around crates, boxes, rolled up rugs and beeping forklifts was no easy task and it was hard to imagine the NRF Expo would start in just over 24 hours and the stacks of packing crates would be replaced by thousands of retailers from around the world.
The next morning, as I entered the show, the buzz of people in the coat check line and common areas speaking languages from around the world once again reminded me of how important this event is to the retail community, globally, and how this proves retail really is one of the greatest and most diverse industries to be in. I headed to the Avnet booth on level 1 for our pre-show meeting, but now the crates were gone, concrete floors now carpeted, booths staffed and last minute prep was underway to ready for the show opening.
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At 10 a.m. sharp the attendees started to stream in and the organized chaos and energy of the show was on display. My first impression was Retail was definitely back, if it had ever left. The 200,000 sq ft EXPO was packed with hundreds of retailers and a total of 575 solutions providers and there was even a Mobile Scavenger Hunt going on. The “big boys” seemed a little bigger, a little fancier, and better staffed than past years, but there were also some new players in the game and offering some competitive and creative solutions.
Magic Mirrors, analytics tools, a seemingly endless array of solutions, ideas and concepts were on display. Walking through the expo, and seeing in person, these technologies that have been discussed throughout the year - and being able to test them - just again showed that retail is the industry to be in and how things have advanced in the last year alone.
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Throughout the days, the key takeaways varied, but the Internet of Things was a common theme that had jumped to the top of the list and was a major component of a lot of messaging. Also, with all of the headlines of the surrounding security issues in the last year, data protection and security was definitely near the top of most discussed. The CIO panel even noted that security is now a key component of every IT project. Of course Mobile was everywhere, along with an expanded focus on mobile payments and how businesses can utilize them to grow their business, while also making sure that information is again secure. And seeing that mobility requires networks, those were also on every corner as well being promoted and tested. Throughout the show, I also had the time to visit with a couple of Avnet’s suppliers and some of the largest infrastructure providers (IBM, HP, Oracle, Microsoft, Intel, Cisco, etc.), and they really pushed vertical solution messages.
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To me, the question that was front and center was how retailers could take all these ideas, innovations, solutions, devices, digest it, and keep moving their business forward in such a competitive environment. Luckily, a lot of those questions were answered in some of the keynotes and NRF has provided session articles and materials, photos, full-length session videos and 2 minute quick clip videos so those who didn’t attend, or want to relive the event, can view the content.
At the close to the event every year, I continue to be amazed by the Big Show. I was there for 3 days and given a new set of legs and more sleep I could have spent another 3 days to take in the things I couldn’t get to. I know I’ll be spending time attending analysts’ NRF Recap webinars to get their insight, and checking out the NRF website for content I couldn’t get to.If you want the full recap of the show, check out NRF’s site and watch the official recap video below.
What were your favorite parts of the NRF Big Show? Share in the comments below.