NRF 2024 recap: Top 10 things you can't miss | Corbis news

NRF 2024 recap: Top 10 things you can't miss

by Guillermina Salgueiro

January 22, 2024


The four-day event in New York broke attendance records with more than 40k visitors. The Retail Big Show also featured 6,2k brands from more than 100 countries and over 1k exhibitors. Industry leaders gathered to explore trends, innovations, and insights shaping retail's future.

Stars and celebrities such as Magic Johnson, Drew Barrymore, and Martha Stewart delivered inspiring speeches, and retail experts shared their views on the future of the marketplace. Here are our top 10 highlights from NRF 2024.

Our team specialized in Retail

1. Revolutionizing E-commerce: a data-driven solution to meet a growing demand

Raj Subramaniam, CEO of FedEx, began his presentation with a stark reality check: online retail sales are expected to skyrocket to a staggering $8 trillion annually by 2026. With this massive opportunity, Subramaniam explained that companies are scrambling to grab a bigger piece of the pie by connecting with the world's four billion consumers and turning them into loyal customers.

Underscoring FedEx's core belief in innovation as a problem-solving tool, Subramaniam reflected on the company's origins 50 years ago. He emphasized, "FedEx didn't just start a company; it initiated an industry by building a global network that connects the world."

On the other hand, with a clear understanding of the multifaceted needs of the direct-to-consumer retail industry, Subramaniam introduced "fdx" as a groundbreaking solution. Positioned as the first data-driven commerce platform, fdx aims to seamlessly connect every touchpoint in the customer journey.

2. Economic outlook with Steve Liesman: The idea of “living through the recession”

"The economy is going to grow relatively slowly this year, slower than it's been, but I don't think a recession is in the cards. I'm going to give that away right off the bat." With this statement, the CNBC senior economic reporter, Steve Liesman, started a keynote session where he offered insights into the economic health of the consumer and the retail industry.

Liesman reassured attendees that a recession was not imminent despite expectations of slower economic growth. He highlighted the impact of historical and current economic factors, emphasizing the need to understand the unique challenges and opportunities shaping the economy.

This edition had record attendance

3. Magic Johnson’s winning mindset

NBA legend Earvin "Magic" Johnson shared his experiences building success from the ground up. He emphasized the importance of preparation, dedication, and discipline in achieving greatness. Drawing from his leadership journey with the Los Angeles Lakers, Johnson highlighted the significance of surrounding oneself with like-minded individuals and helping others succeed.

"For me, if I'm prepared, if I've done everything I'm supposed to do, I feel that I'm going to win," he said. "And I only hire people like that — the same type of mindset, the same type of dedication, the same type of discipline, the same type of focus. That's what I want. I want people running with me that have that same mindset."

Magic Johnson
Magic Johnson at the Big Show

4. Revolutionizing retail with culinary experiences

NRF 2024 showcased a culinary evolution within retail spaces that integrated fine dining experiences. A visionary perspective that emphasized creating memorable experiences, marking a shift in consumer expectations. In the Foodservice Innovation Zone, we sampled the latest in food technology, experiencing firsthand the technologies transforming the customer's dining experience.

5. Walmart's VR training success

Walmart's early use of VR for workforce development resulted in a 5-10% boost in test scores. VR-based training is proving to be four times faster than traditional approaches, increasing employee proficiency and confidence. "Virtual Reality isn't just a tool; it's a game-changer in employee development," shares Andy Trainor, formerly Walmart's VP of Learning. Walmart's commitment to early adoption of VR is an example of how technology can reshape the retail workforce and offers a glimpse into the future of immersive training methods.

6. Celebrities' comeback: The entrepreneurial gene

Some celebrities, such as Martha Stewart and Drew Barrymore, made a strong comeback at the NRF event, discussing their entrepreneurial challenges rather than their Hollywood status. Stewart emphasized adapting to evolving retail marketing, citing the power of social media. At the same time, Barrymore talked about her housewares brand, Beautiful, and the lessons learned from building multiple companies over the years. "Not every single brand is going to work, but every single one is going to teach you something," she said, pointing out how hard it is to start a business even though the success of a name.

7. AI in hiring insights: When technology does not replace authenticity

Paradox, Nordstrom, and 7-Eleven spoke on "Landing a Job in the Age of AI." Tips included demonstrating genuineness during interviews and adjusting to AI tools in the recruitment process. Josh Secrest, Paradox VP of Marketing, emphasizes that candidates need to understand the symbiotic relationship between technology and genuineness in the age of AI. "While AI tools streamline processes, authenticity remains paramount," he said. Nordstrom's Head of Early in Career Talent, Vicky Hidalgo, adds: "A perfect answer, generated by AI scripts, falls short if the candidate doesn't project genuine authenticity. We pay attention to the candidate's unique voice and personality."

8. Ulta Beauty’s tech-driven approach: From AI customer service to hyper-personalization

Dave Kimbell, CEO of Ulta Beauty, shared some perspectives on the intersection of technology and beauty retailing. Kimbell outlined the company's commitment to innovation, leveraging AI and tech-enabled customer service. A revamped loyalty program and Ulta Beauty's growth in the digital space, including a robust app, demonstrated the brand's success in meeting evolving customer expectations. "Almost everything we sell, we can connect back to an individual," he said. "We understand our guests' behavior."

9. Tractor supply company’s legendary customer service

Hal Lawton, president and CEO of Tractor Supply Company, talked about the importance of customer service in the retail industry. Sharing a story that epitomized the company's commitment, Lawton pointed out how the company went the extra mile to help a customer in need. Even in small gestures, this dedication to legendary service underscored the company's values during high growth and expansion.

10. Michelle Gass' journey

Michelle Gass, President of Levi Strauss & Co., shared her 30-year journey leading to the CEO role. Her talk highlighted the importance of values, innovation, and thinking like an omnichannel retailer. At Levi's, she remarked, "Everything we do is driving profits through principles."

Stella Debibi, Diego Amadeo, and Guillermina Salgueiro, our crew at the event.

Overall, NRF 2024 Big Show marked a return to pre-pandemic activity, with record attendance. Our team had the opportunity to network with many industry experts and interact with several of the most relevant brands in the segment. This year, we will likely see many of these trends applied to the opening and renovation programs that retailer brands have in their pipeline. Attending insightful sessions and experiencing the latest technology, from Walmart's VR training to FedEx's data-driven commerce platform, was a crucial chapter in continuing to enrich our value proposition for retailers.