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Thursday, January 18, 2018

NRF 2018 celebrates retail resurgence

The National Retail Federation reported 37,500 attendees and 900 exhibitors from 96 countries attended its 107th annual convention and expo held Jan. 14 to16, 2018, at Jacob K. Javits Convention Center in New York City. Retail and payments leaders in attendance attributed the event's palpable celebratory spirit to record holiday spending, economic recovery and a post-EMV retail landscape.

"The dollar focus in the past three years emphasized security and EMV," said Jeff Wakefield, Vice President Americas Sales Enablement at Verifone. "Today we're discussing not just mobility, but 'I have this vision,' and 'how do I become more seamless in my store?'"

Wakefield said retailers of all sizes are reassessing POS environments, noting that if they have four cash registers on the front end, they're questioning if they need only two, or any at all. "Tire retailers are ripe for disruption," he added. "Why can't someone scan the tire and show customers available options on a tablet? Customers could comparison shop and slide or tap the tablet to complete the sale."

Old brands, new tricks

Ingenico Group executives have also observed a renewed focus on innovation and new ideas in 2018. Michel Leger, Executive Vice President of Innovation at Ingenico Group, sees consumers relying on multiple channels to complete purchases. A younger generation is driving this trend, he noted. "For them, the emphasis will need to be on how these channels connect to provide a seamless experience," he said. "This is in part due to the fact that this generation is digitally native and expects to be able to seamlessly shop how, when and where they want with instant gratification."

Ben Wagner, Director of Product, Solutions at Ingenico Group, North America, added, "EMV is behind us. Now we can focus on improving the retail experience, by working out the kinks and optimizing mobility." Wagner noted Ingenico and other leading device manufacturers are evolving beyond hardware offerings to subscription and app marketplace models.

In Sunday's opening session, James Curleigh, President of Global Brands and Executive Vice President at Levi Strauss & Co., biked down the center aisle of the Main Stage auditorium, blasting music and GPS navigation instructions from his connected denim jacket. His keynote address, "Learn from Levi's: How the 150-year-old Startup Continues to Transform Its Iconic Brand," included advice on how to turn obstacles into opportunities and actions into momentum.

Curleigh said Levi's culture has one foot rooted in heritage and one confident foot stepping forward to drive innovation. The company's objective is to create legitimate lifestyle solutions and become the most loved, most relevant lifestyle brand, again. As part of this effort, Levi's is modeling its supply chain after the mullet haircut, which he described as all business in the front, with the party in the back.

"We want the sophistication in the back," Curleigh added. "We began by making a men's purposeful work pant and will continue to leverage our icons, lean into innovation and be aspirational from our DNA to how we see the future."

'Retail is local'

Walmart Inc. CEO Doug McMillon's transformational impact on the Walmart family of brands earned him the 2018 NRF Visionary award, the NRF stated. In an interview with NRF CEO Matthew R. Shay, McMillon recalled his company's efforts to support local communities during the Hurricane Katrina crisis. "You unleash your teams and worry about what it costs later," he said. But the period following the crisis became what he called his company's cultural transformation, when he asked, "What would it take for us to be that company all the time?"

He launched a series of initiatives designed to reduce the company's carbon footprint and expand corporate sustainability. In his travels to Walmart stores around the world, McMillon found commonality in terms of how technology is being implemented. He called China "off the charts," teaching Walmart more about technology adoption than any other market. "Retail is local," he said. "We empower people to run their businesses."

McMillon said he is committed to driving retail and manufacturing growth in the U.S. market. He recalled a discussion with a visiting executive who said the United States needs to be a country that makes things, not just sells things. This is the time to make that happen ‒ in a strong global economy with low gas prices, tax reform, optimism and record holiday spending, he added. end of article

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