Adaption, Adjustment Prime Focus at Retailers Convention

Trade association offers tools to inspire, motivate

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The National Retail Federation kicked off its 98th annual convention and expo, Retail's Big Show, Sunday. (Source: National Retail Federation)

More than a dozen retailers including Circuit City, Sharper Image, and Linens ’N Things filed for Chapter 11 in 2008. Though retailers are suffering, they are hoping Retail’s Big Show, the National Retail Federation’s (NRF) 98th annual convention and expo, will help them find some insight into how they should proceed in this difficult economy.

The NRF’s annual conference, which opened Sunday in New York, promises to provide workshops, concept stores, and efficiency solutions to help retailers wage a more efficient battle against the sagging economy and lackluster consumers in 2009. A presentation from IBM employees at the opening session commented that 91% of consumers are making spending sacrifices.

“While this complete pullback in consumer spending is likely to subside over time, it’s clear that our customers’ behavior and attitudes have fundamentally changed,” NRF CEO Tracy Mullin said during the convention’s first super session. “How our industry adjusts and adapts to the new consumer will be crucial to our long term growth and short term survival.”

U.S. retail and food services sales were down 7.4% for November 2008 compared with the same time last year, according to advanced estimates of economic indicators released by the U.S. Census Bureau Dec. 12. Numbers for December will be released on the final day of the conference.

Members of the NRF represent all retail formats and channels of distribution. Exhibits and workshops at Retail’s Big Show will highlight business solutions for department, specialty, discount, catalog, Internet, independent stores, chain restaurants, drug stores and grocery stores.

At about 18,000, attendance is slightly less than last year’s 18,500 attendees, but Retail’s Big Show has not allowed grim economic forecasting to deter their purpose of inspiring retailers. There will be more than 500 exhibiting companies at the Expo, and this year, the show will feature two new customer experience concept stores: Seeing Green, and the Sonic Bar. The green store highlights the latest green technologies to encourage “green retailing” and assist retailers with energy consumption, sustainability, reducing carbon emissions and increasing return on investment.

The Green Store will showcase low energy point-of-sale devices, energy saving shades, and operational components that simulate ways to monitor a store’s energy consumption to reduce operating costs. Also featured were paperless receipts and coupons.

Technologies highlighted in the Sonic Bar, a digital media concept store, will demonstrate how to keep customers’ attention by combining technology, digital signage, lighting, sound, and smell for a total immersive experience.

“In the face of remarkable challenges, this industry continues to be the most dynamic and exciting in the world,” says Mullin. “And a little inspiration can make a big difference.”

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