Pride is the New Retail Currency January 22, 2015 04:18

Written for Power Retail.

My first email after landing in sunny Sydney this morning was from the editor of Power Retail. My brief: write a piece about the big ‘take homes’ from the NRF Big Show, which finished up in snowy New York City last week.

Despite the vastness of the event, around thirty five thousand attendees, I always try to hone on the one or two big things at these mega events. So, I guess I could write about the convergence of physical and digital retail and the number of keynotes that referenced that. Yes, there is a new word folks, “phygital”!

Or indeed, this time last year, when I reflected, as did others, that whatever one felt about the growth of mobile, we were underestimating it. Well that proved to a less than Nostradamus like prophesy. Mobile is undoubtedly the ballgame.

Or the focus on location based marketing technology, ensuring a whole view of customer as they move between the physical and digital offer of the brand. But I might leave expanding these notes to my colleague Gareth Jude of Telstra who was an attendee and presenter at the event. He has copious insights to share and is hosting some events in this regard.

Rather I want to talk about my key take home, with my NORA hat on. That is, taking pride in retail practice.

Ok, I know the Americans can stir up emotion. And a keynote hall with ten thousand strong can feel a bit like an Amway and Hillsong Convention combined!  But the keynote and welcoming addresses from the outgoing chairman of the NRF Stephen Sadove, the CEO of the NRF Matt Shay, and the incoming chairman of the NRF Kip Tindall, shared a few passionate and stirring messages. Firstly, retail is the best business to be in. Secondly, this is the best time for newcomers to be coming into the field, new retail is the ballgame. A technology led global retail reeks of opportunity.

Thirdly, for most developed economies, retail is the main event. One in four jobs in the USA are retail or retail related. I felt a genuine pride to be a small part of this global retail movement. New retail attracts our best and brightest entrepreneurs and retail practitioners. And we all know who they are in Australia.

Of course this pride was further heightened when I took my seat at the table of FIRAE ( Forum for International Retail Association Executives) with forty of my counterparts. Australia was well represented by both myself and my friend Russell Zimmerman of the ARA. As we went around the table, each country head spoke about the opportunities and challenges they face in their countries. Snap. The world is flat, and getting flatter.

But I do have one twinge. Ok, one whinge. As the countries represented flashed on the screen at the event opening, so did the number of delegates from each country. Brazil, around two thousand five hundred, France – around one thousand five hundred, Canada of course, a big crowd, and so on. 

Australia? Well, perhaps mercifully we didn’t make a screen shot, but my estimate was around fifty, certainly less than a hundred delegates. Our friends at Microsoft Australia, the Victorian State Government Trade office, Telstra, ARA and NORA had tried to bring the Australian delegation together. And we had a few specific events for the Aussie delegation, but in truth, we did not have the numbers.

My point? Well, if a global retail is the new ballgame, and if retail practice is continuing to move at warp speed, surely we need to take these pilgrimages? Indeed, may I respectfully suggest that even our attendance at our local retail shows could be improved on? Just saying.

For those hungry for a bit more meat, a brief synopsis recap of the show can be found at the Big Show site itself. Of course, Gareth Jude of Telstra, Richard Umbers of Myer (also a speaker), Russell Zimmerman of the ARA, Gary Wheelhouse of Harvey Norman and others have their own perspectives, which I am sure they will be sharing. Given the vastness of the event, perhaps a broader view makes the most sense.

As always, great to be home.