NRF: The Mood Was Good in New York
Ah, remembering the bad old days. It was interesting making
the rounds at the National Retail Federation’s Big Show in Manhattan over the
past several days to discuss the difference in the mood of attendees this year
compared to the recent past.
Everyone we spoke with recounted how depressing
the atmosphere was two years back as the realities of Great Recession were
becoming clear. Engaging in a bit of black humor, we joked that we had collected
as many resumes from individuals as business cards with many concerned whether
their current jobs would be still be around when NRF rolled around the following
year. While obviously an exaggeration, we did get quite a few emails with resumes
attached in the weeks following with messages along the lines of “in case
you hear of anything.”
Several CEOs of exhibitors at the show recalled
being “hopeful” last
year that business would turn in a positive direction as a larger number of
retailers had expressed interest in the solutions their companies offered and
were just trying to decide on timing. Some, it turned out, had pulled the trigger
in 2010 while others had not.
That brings us to this year’s show, where the mood was
noticeably improved. No, there weren’t displays of irrational exuberance with
folks dancing in the booths. Okay, maybe there was a little dancing in one
or two, but that only seemed to happen after Happy Hour kicked in. Retailers
were giving technology vendors, we were told, the go-ahead
on projects and no longer waiting for the right time to get started.
RetailWire polling at the show confirmed our anectdotal findings. Of
114 asked whether they were more or less optimistic about the retail industry’s
business prospects this year versus the last, 22 said they were “much
more optimistic,” 70
were “somewhat more optimistic,” 19 were “the same” and
only three were “somewhat less optimistic.”
Echoing sentiments expressed
at Monday’s Super Session, “Retail’s Road to Recovery: Status Report on the
Global Economy,” almost all were confident that 2012 and 2013 would be better
still. Caveats such as the effect of rising fuel and other commodity costs,
employment figures and the fiscal health of the government were all mentioned
as factors that could get in the way of even happier Big Shows in the future.
Are you more or less optimistic about the retail industry’s prospects this year versus the same period last year? Where do you see the greatest opportunities for improvement at retail?