3 Key Takeaways from NRF 2022: Retail’s Big Show
2022 started in welcome and familiar territory for much of the retail industry, as New York’s Javits Center once again welcomed visitors from all over the world to NRF 2022: Retail’s Big Show in January, for the first time in two years. Following the show’s hiatus in 2021, over 700 exhibitors ventured to the Big Apple to tackle the retail sector’s post-pandemic challenges and take a glimpse at what is to come in the industry’s future.
While COVID-19 and the surge in prominence of the Omicron wave may have caused a somewhat smaller turnout at the event, the quality of attendees was not impacted, and visitors were still treated to a wide range of new technologies that are pushing the boundaries of innovation.
A few of the Jargon PR team were in attendance in New York providing trade show support for a client, arranging and handling media briefings, putting boots on the ground to help ensure the event was a roaring success. Taking place over three days between 16th-18th January, it’s not easy to summarise the entire show into one small blog post, but there were a few key trends that revealed themselves over the course of NRF 2022…
1 – The Growth of Robotics
While we may not yet be at the point of being visited by a future version of Arnold Schwarzenegger, jumping back in time to prevent a war against machines, robotics still continues to evolve, and there were a number of examples of this in New York.
The technology appears to be blossoming. Driven by RFID technology, brands such as SML RFID are providing retailers with the ability to take inventory using multiple RFID readers – all automated by the use of robots. We saw smart parcel pickup lockers, and brands such as Righthand Robotics and Locus Roboticus offering solutions that not only improve accuracy and efficiency within the supply chain, but also enhance worker safety. An already highly intuitive technology is only continuing to improve and become more mainstream.
2 – Sustainable Last Mile Delivery
On the topic of robotics and automation, last mile delivery played a particularly prevalent role at NRF. Research finds that last mile delivery accounts for 53% of the total cost of shipping, so there is little surprise as to why there is so much focus on it at the moment.
However, while lowering costs is of course high on the agenda of many retailers, the environmental use-case seemed to be the biggest talking point at NRF. Brands such as Ottonomy were demonstrating their autonomous curbside and last-mile delivery technology, which plays a strong role in lowering carbon footprint, and IKEA US’ CEO and chief sustainability officer, Javier Quiñones, gave a captivating talk, discussing the retailer’s commitment to sustainability, citing that as part of its efforts, IKEA is currently deploying electric delivery vans across New York, and plans to scale across the U.S. by 2025.
3 – Circular Continues to Rise
As seen in Quiñones’ session, sustainability is an evermore important topic, and has been a growing priority for retailers for years now. Circular fashion has played a pivotal role in that conversation, and is becoming an increasingly popular strategy for retailers who are looking to lower their carbon footprint. This was evidenced at the Javits Center, with multiple vendors offering innovative solutions to streamline the implementation of circularity, and make it a key part of any retailer’s business model.
The likes of Limeloop, exhibiting in the show’s start up zone, provides a sustainable shipping solution, utilising reusable packaging to create a more environmentally friendly logistics process. From a more customer facing angle, Recurate enables brands to launch their own resale channels, and similarly, Trove also provides trade-in capabilities that enables customers to return items when they are finished with them. Soon enough, it seems as though circularity will become the expectation for the increasingly environmentally conscious consumer.
While the event didn’t quite reach the capacity levels of previous occasions, NRF 2022 didn’t disappoint. Retail as an industry has overcome some significant hurdles over the past few years, and it has made for an incredibly unique and agile sector that is proactively finding ways to create long-term, sustainable business solutions. These brands have kicked 2022 off with a bang, and an exciting year awaits.
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