Retail’s BIG Show Shatters Records with 35,000 Attendees in New York City

January 15, 2015

An uptick in holiday sales to $616.1 billion, a 4 percent year-over-year increase, was just one piece of good news for the retail industry during the record-breaking Retail’s BIG Show held this week in New York City at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center.

“Today’s holiday retail sales results are welcome news for our industry and for our economy,” said NRF President and CEO Matthew Shay.

He added, “There is every reason to believe that we have moved well beyond the days of consumer pessimism and that the trajectory for retailers continues to point up.”

The trade show, owned and produced by the National Retail Federation, reflected that optimism, topping its record attendance from last year by more than 15 percent, with an estimated 35,000 retail industry professionals.

The showfloor, which is close to filling Javits, also saw growth, with 220,000 net square feet and 575 exhibitors.

“This is our largest show ever,” said Susan Newman, NRF’s senior vice president of conferences. “Our biggest growth is the number of retailers attending, which is our desired focus.”

With 30 percent of the attendance coming from outside the U.S., 83 countries in all, the fastest-growing ones were Brazil, Canada and France.

There also were more than 300 speakers at sessions that were held not only on the showfloor with standing-room crowds, but also in meeting rooms scattered throughout the Javits.

“The global sessions have been especially busy with our international attendees,” Newman said.

New at the show this year was the fact that it opened on a Sunday for the first time. Newman said attendee feedback was that they needed more time on the showfloor, so the change was made.

“Exhibitors also were spending a lot of money to be here and this gave them more value,” she added.

One of the big draws on the showfloor was the NRF iLab where new products were featured, such as edible cups made of citrus, cane sugar and gelatin, a 3-D printer that produced little prototype objects and protein bars made of cricket dust.

Neil Cook, vice president and chief engineer for RBM Technologies, which makes retail merchandising software, said he was at the show to look for new products.

“I will go through every, single booth to make sure I am not missing anything,” he added. “Especially location-based technology, like RFID and NFC.”

Technology was a major focus on the showfloor, with mayor players including Microsoft, Hewlett-Packard, RetailNext, PayPal and eBay taking major footprints.

Several exhibitors said they took more space at this year’s show to make more of an impact.

Buddy Valastro, star of The Learning Channel’s “Cake Boss” show, was at the Earthlink booth taking photos, signing autographs and handing out cupcakes.

Pam O’Connor, senior manager of corporate communications for Earthlink, said the company has been exhibiting at the show for five years, and this was the biggest booth, 20’x30’, they had ever had.

“Retail is our key vertical, and we wanted to make an impact,” she added. “People have been very excited to see Buddy.”

David Hilton, marketing director for Display Data, said his company doubled its booth size this year to 40’x20’.

“Our business is growing rapidly,” he added. “We have a lot of interest in our product, so we wanted a bigger space. It’s been fantastic!”

Other highlights of the show included keynotes such as a panel of professionals talking about “Game Changer: Loyalty and Performance Lessons from Passionate Sports Fandom” and NRF Chairman of the Board Stephen I. Sadove interviewing Dr. Ben Bernanke, who was the chairman of the Federal Reserve System from 2006-2014.

Bernanke spoke in detail about the events that led up to the years-long economic crisis that gripped countries around the globe, including the fall of Lehman Brothers and AIG.

He said that when they found out AIG was about to collapse, they had to go and explain to then-President George W. Bush how dire the situation was, telling him, “I think we are going to have to bail out an $85 billion company.” Bernanke added, “When he asked if there was an alternative, we said, ‘No, not without the collapse of the entire global economy.’”

He said, “It was the toughest decision we had to make.… It was an extraordinary time.”

Fortunately, those days seem to be in the past, with retail sales bouncing back, and Retail’s BIG Show growing in leaps and bounds.

“Everybody is ecstatic,” Newman said of this year’s show. “The crowds we’ve had are incredible, and the traffic on the showfloor. Our focus at NRF is keeping the show the best we possibly can.”


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