NRF 2017: Prepare for Change

NRF 2017: Prepare for Change

I recently attended the 2017 NRF Big Show, one of the largest retail industry events of the year.  Everyone from retailers to vendors to technology companies attends the event to learn about the newest trends in retail.  Attendees also get to learn about what some of the best in class retailers are doing and network with other professionals in the field.  Seeing everything from software that aims to understand shopping patterns to robotic units that pick and sort product in distribution centers, the show doesn’t fail to highlight the newest and most innovative happenings in retail.

Be nimble or be gone

A common theme heard throughout the show was the need to be nimble in order to succeed in today’s retail market.  Digitalization, connected shoppers, and omnichannel are continually causing retailers to need to change quickly and innovate across all channels.  Two of the keynote speakers had interesting perspectives on the topic.  Scott Kelly, a NASA astronaut, learned that he would get too comfortable when his flight was going as planned and was reminded that he needed to be constantly checking, maneuvering, and adjusting so that he would not veer off of his flight plan or get in trouble.  Sir Richard Branson put the same concept in his own words:  “if you don’t have a revolution going on inside your company, then pretty shortly someone outside of your company will do it for you.”  Both of these talks highlighted the fact that you can’t afford to accept the status quo and not grow and change.  Companies that fail to do this will not keep up and will eventually cease to exist.

Building the workforce of the future

Another key theme focused on retail associate and management training.  The last concept, training, was covered in some of the keynote presentations.  In a session titled “Building Tomorrow’s Workforce,” executives from Walmart and Macy’s discussed the need for a better trained workforce that can execute and meet the future challenges coming in retail.  To double down on this concept, a grouping of retailers and non-profits are investing in and partnering with NRF to kick off a new program, RISE Up (Retail Industry Skills and Education).  The main objective and goal is to “help people acquire the skills they need to secure jobs in retail and advance into promising careers.”  In a later session, “A View from Walmart – How Retailers are Creating Economic Opportunities,” Kathleen McLaughlin, Chief Sustainability Officer, illustrated some ways that Walmart is investing in communities, sustainability, and economic opportunity.

Working in a consulting role and being involved in many facets of job design for retailers, it is exciting to see the RISE Up program being created.  It is a large responsibility to run a multimillion dollar brick and mortar retail store.  I constantly see retailers struggle with building and finding store managers that have the necessary skills.  Once a retailer trains a store manager to be successful, that store manager is either promoted or recruited by another retailer.  All retailers will agree that a program that helps build more individuals that can lead a retail store will be very worthwhile.  It is exciting to see the retail community and NRF investing in this effort to provide more industry specific training.

Stay tuned for the next blog in my series of NRF posts focused on customer experience, in-store process automation and data analytics.

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