We came. We saw. We had tchotchkes in the living room. (Can you ever really have enough designer pens?) And now, after closing the curtain on the NRF 2022 Big Show yesterday, we have some takeaways.
Opportunity for everyone: Even if the second day of the conference did not fall on MLK Day, diversity, equity and inclusion would have been high on the agenda.
James Fripp, Director of Equity and Inclusion at Yum! Brands, told attendees that if retailers aren’t worried about doing enough, then they probably aren’t: “If you’re not a little worried about not being diverse, then you’re not going to not be relevant,” he said. noted.
Appearing on the same panel – titled Making DE&I Personal – Sharon Leite, CEO of The Vitamin Shoppe, shared that she will be featured on the reality show undercover boss this month. Going incognito in his stores has given him a new appreciation for the challenges his employees face.
“During this experience,” she began, “I learned not only what they had to deal with at work, but also what they had to deal with at home, how it made them what they were. ‘they are, [and] what that meant in terms of engagement with the customer.
In his keynote address, Walmart U.S. President and CEO John Furner urged retailers to be steadfast in their commitment to better representation and to be transparent about their progress. Walmart, for its part, publishes annual reports, such as the one from 2021 which revealed:
- 47% of US associates were POC, up from 43% in 2019.
- 46% of those promoted to leadership were women, up from 43% in 2019.
The workers are such bosses: Lowe’s has managed to stay open throughout the pandemic, only closing on Easter, Thanksgiving and Christmas. Since Covid hit, it has hired nearly 100,000 workers and paid nearly $1 billion in extra bonuses and incentives for frontline hourly associates.
“As we reflect on what we need to be as a company, it’s been very simple,” CEO Marvin Ellison, who appeared via video, said in a keynote. “We want to take care of associates and be the best place to work.”
Also appearing for a video keynote, Best Buy CEO Corie Barry said with workers rushing for other opportunities, retailers need to show them they can move forward, not budge.
“They ask, ‘What is my professional background? What are my benefits? What does my development look like? “, She said. “So how can I offer this suite of things to my employees that will help them stay loyal to me as a company?”
- Best Buy, for example, has given bonuses to hourly workers in 2021: $500 for full-time workers, $200 for part-time workers.
Beyond greenwashing: Meagan Loyst, an investor at venture capital firm Lerer Hippeau and founder of the Gen Z VCs group, said under-25s like her see through brands when they only offer talk.
“A lot of brands – when they try to reach Gen Z, they start a campaign that is just greenwashing,” she said from the stage during one of the conference sessions. .
To help ensure that its environmental goals and claims were legitimate, Walmart worked with The Nature Conservancy, according to Zach Freeze, senior director of sustainability at Walmart, who spoke on a sustainability panel.
“There is a need for innovation,” Freeze said. “Ask yourself, ‘What can we do as a business?’ Remember, you can’t be shy.
A recent survey by the IBM Institute for Business Value and the NRF found:
- 62% of respondents would be willing to change their buying habits to reduce environmental impact, compared to 57% two years ago.
- 50% of respondents said they were willing to pay more for sustainability, an average of 70% more, or double the premium two years ago.
Omnichannel is ubiquitous: In his speech, Ralph Lauren CEO Patrice Louvet said that while the company opened 80 stores last year, including opulent flagship stores in Beijing, Shanghai and Milan, it doesn’t put all its polo shirts in the same basket. (You can read more about metaverse brand investing here.)
“We live in an omnichannel world,” Louvet said. “We have to be where the customer expects us to be, and we have to be there in a way that supports the brand.”
In his keynote address, IBM CEO Arvind Krishna said retailers must adapt to shoppers who are increasingly buying online and in-store, often for the same purchase.
- A recent hybrid shopping study conducted by IBM and NRF found that 27% of shoppers overall (and 36% for Gen Z) said their primary method of purchase was a combination of digital and in-store channels. .
Customers first, then a few: Chewy has grown dramatically over the past three years, tripling its revenue to $9 billion.
“When you’re dealing with pets,” he noted, this is “the only category besides children where customers identify themselves as (pet) parents.”
One of the ways Chewy has connected with these customers goes beyond kibble and Kongs to help with the health care of their pets.
- The company launched a pet telehealth program in 2020 and announced late last year that it would soon offer pet insurance through a partnership with Trupanion.
“The watchwords for the future should be communication, innovation and perseverance,” Singh said. “Also, empathy and compassion – and a real devotion to developing the ability to listen.”
If not…well, Walmart’s Furner put it succinctly in his keynote: “Loyalty in retail is simply the absence of something better,” he warned. “Once they find something better, they tend to stick with it.”
Whether long-timers or newbies, Target CEO Brian Cornell told his audience, one silver lining has been the resilience of retail employees and customers.
“They went out to shop,” he said. “They were physically shopping in our stores. They returned to shopping malls. They were engaged. They wanted to take advantage of what retail has to offer. This gives me incredible optimism for the future.