Visitors enter the venue at The NRF 2020 Vision: Retail’s Big Show held in New York, the United States, on Jan. 12, 2020.
Wang Yin | Xinhua News Agency | fake images
“The Big Show will go on,” National Retail Federation President Matt Shay said Monday.
And on Friday, even as more speakers and attendees walk out of the conference, that remains the trade group’s plan.
The National Retail Federation will kick off its annual meeting in New York City this weekend. It is one of a series of annual conferences and trade shows that kick off a new year each January. but with omicron taking Covid cases to new heights, conference planning has become complex and prompted industries to make tough decisions.
The JP Morgan Healthcare Conference, which attracts medical professionals, major pharmaceutical companies and healthcare startups, decided to hold its annual event virtually this week. CES 2022, a trade show organized by the Consumer Technology Association, went ahead with your event the week before, albeit with fewer crowds. And the film industry has announced it will go ahead with plans to hold the Berlin International Film Festival in person in February, while the Sundance Film Festival, scheduled for later this month, has gone virtual.
The decisions, in some cases, are symbolic, reflecting the challenges facing businesses as companies try to push consumers back toward more normality. Supermarkets and pharmacies have kept their doors open and stores staffed during previous waves of the pandemic. The theaters are trying to woo audiences, as some people are afraid to sit next to strangers.
“As we move beyond the pandemic to endemic, this year’s convention is a step forward in this new environment,” NRF said in a statement Friday. “It will certainly be a bit messy, but it is a step forward.”
There will be fewer opportunities for people to remove their masks, drink and socialize than at conferences of the past. The NRF recently decided to postpone two of its main events, an awards gala and a more intimate dinner hosted by the NRF Foundation, until mid-April. The foundation sent personal notes to CEOs and award winners on January 6 announcing the change. It also indefinitely postponed a student show that coincides with the Big Show and typically draws about 800 college-age attendees for education and networking.
NRF has announced heightened security measures. In addition to requiring masks and proof of vaccination, he plans to hand out N95 masks and home Covid testing kits.
Similarly, the Berlin film festival said its event would have tighter restrictions and no parties.
The United States reported nearly 800,000 cases per day on average over the past week, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University, more than three times the level seen during last winter’s previous record. While omicron cases may be milder than previous strains of the virus, hospitalizations are also on the rise, particularly in the last two weeks.
Against this backdrop, expected attendance at the NRF Big Show has dwindled. Shay from NRF said in a LinkedIn post Monday that the program will continue. He said the conference was expected to draw as many as 20,000 attendees and 750 exhibitors. Some 40,000 people attended the Big Show in 2019.
Two days later, however, an NRF spokesman said there were 15,000 confirmed attendees.
Almost every passing day has brought changes to the conference schedule. Jessica Alba honest company confirmed last Friday that the company’s founder and CEO had withdrawn from the lineup. Saks CEO Marc Metrick stepped down earlier this week. Both were featured speakers on the event’s main stage.
Target said Friday that CEO Brian Cornell still plans to attend the event. He is scheduled to give a keynote address and receive the “Visionary” award from the trade group. However, the company said it has curtailed travel for other employees planning to go and was looking for ways to participate virtually.
a session with Tapestry, the parent company of Coach and Kate Spade, is no longer on the three-day agenda. Meanwhile, the CEOs of old navy, stitch arrangement, Lowe’s other Nordstrom they have chosen not to travel to the conference and will instead conduct their sessions virtually.
Until now, the NRF has not offered a virtual option for attendees or for speakers not scheduled to be on the Javits Center main stage.
In a January 6 tweet, Future Commerce co-founder Phillip Jackson said that “NRF’s The Big Show will be more like The No Show.”
Since omicron is highly contagious, there is a fear that an event that attracts thousands of attendees will turn into a high-profile event. Nearly 70 attendees, including some Samsung executives, have tested positive for coronavirus after CES was held last week in Las Vegas. according to a Reuters report. It’s unclear whether those attendees contracted COVID during the tech fair or at off-site events, such as dinner at a restaurant.
The site of the NRF Big Show, the Javits Center, is already believed to be the source of the first known case of spread of omicron within the US, after clusters of cases were detected among the roughly 53,000 people gathered there for an anime conference in November.
The NRF is going ahead with the conference as many retail workers at or near minimum wage show up for work every day in stores and warehouses. Many of the industry’s top executives and corporate employees, on the other hand, have been able to work from the comfort and safety of home.
“The fact is, it’s very, very important for us to keep in mind that our frontline retail workers have been working all this time and we’ve asked them to come to work and deal with customers,” said Stephanie Martz, managing director. and general counsel of NRF, in an interview on January 5.
He said vaccines, masks and other safety precautions have been game-changers, both for the conference and for business operations in general.
“Individual businesses make the decisions that they’re going to make on their own and we certainly don’t blame them for that if we have people walking away, but we think as a trade association that represents retailers we need to take advantage of the fact that we’re in a position to to say that we believe the economy can and should be open for business,” he said.
“We think now is an appropriate time to get back together in some way,” Martz added. “This is a time to start normalizing.”
NRF’s Shay echoed the importance of keeping businesses running, despite the pandemic.
“We are encouraged by Mayor Eric Adams’ stated desire to keep New York City open,” Shay said in his LinkedIn post. “The overwhelming sentiment from our members, exhibitors, retailers, partners and attendees is that we must move forward with the fair. … This year’s show is a step forward, and we think it’s necessary and significant.”