Live from New York, it’s the NRF Big Show: a visit to Oz, a step on the catwalk, and stories from the global retail arena

Snowflakes are falling, lights are flashing and car horns sound. We’re in New York for the annual National Retail Federation Big Show, a conference where retailers from all around the world gather to connect and learn and solve problems through technology, and to be inspired.

I’m with my colleagues and friends Karen and Luke, all of us NRF veterans, but today for a few hours we are just conference attendees. We enter the Convention Center ready to listen, connect, and learn.

We hear Anthony Marino, CMO of share 5 Things Every Retailer Should Know About a Woman’s Closet. He takes us deep inside an overflowing wardrobe and even deeper into a woman’s mind. “There’s emotional satisfaction,” he explains, “when you clear out, get rid of those low value items, and make room for new and higher value items. Things you actually want.” ThredUP doesn’t focus on demographics, they focus on psychographics.. they give you permission to get over the guilt you have over that purchased blouse, price tags still intact, hanging in your closet, never worn. Simply send it to them in the pre-paid turquoise polka dot bag. They give you the promise of a good deal. They give you the promise of satisfaction. And finally, they give the promise of fun.

We enter the Expo. Giant prints of mock store shelves, pods with eclectic lighting, booths of various shapes and sizes, and people walking, talking, perusing and discussing. The Expo floor is buzzing with excitement and activity. We turn a corner and find ourselves on a yellow brick road. Sweeping green translucent curtains fall from the ceiling to floor. We are ushered in to an intriguing landscape, encouraged to follow said yellow brick road. Dorothy and staff wearing jeweled red shoes scan our badges and we are greeted by a cheerful barista offering us coffee and tea. We take some epic selfies before departing this magical Lexmark Wizard Experience and going back to the show.

After our espressos, we head to All the World’s a Catwalk: How to Do Global Fashion Retail. Joelle Grunberg, President and CEO of Lacoste North America walks us through the history of this tennis and golf inspired brand. Their brand heritage is anchored in the sporting spirit, inventiveness, and French savoir-faire, she explains. But multi-channel solutions come with multi challenges, and when brands want direct customer connection they need to be able to do that at scale. Brands that succeed, she tells us, are the ones who know how to solve the paradox of being global and local in their key markets. A captivated audience watches “The Big Leap”, a stunning and award winning 1 minute film. Life is a beautiful sport, the tagline reads.

Jose Gomez, VP of International Development from ETAM Group (you’ll know their brands if you’ve shopped in Europe for lingerie and sleepwear amongst other things) tells us about building an international brand and explains balancing challenges with global expansion, marrying a connected digital with physical experience, along with the preservation of local tastes. “Every store tells a story,” he notes.

We return to the Microsoft Booth. Over the years it has become our office away from the office for the duration of NRF. The booth is bright and packed with conference attendees chatting with our teammates demoing the latest solutions for retailers from Microsoft. These solutions span cloud computing, data and analytics, business insights, ERP and CRM along with a plethora of awe inspiring innovation from our partners.

The NRF Big Show offers a cornucopia of ideas, solutions, creativity, and it's only just getting started.

Come visit us at the Microsoft Booth, #2803, and learn more: