NRF Big Show 2020 Series, Part 1: NRF CEO Matt Shay on Tariffs and Transformation

NRF 2020: Retail’s Big Show brought together 40,000 industry leaders from across the globe, and Retales From the Frontline host Matt Rubel sat down at the show with several high-profile executives to get their takes on where the industry is headed. In this, the first of our three-part Big Show series, NRF President and CEO Matt Shay shares his thoughts on some of the most important issues in retail and what we’re likely to see in 2020.

On tariffs:

The tariff issues were “a real impediment to growth” across US industry, Shay says, affecting business investment and capital expenditures. The January trade deals with China (phase one) and Mexico and Canada will be good for the retail industry overall and “remove a substantial amount of that uncertainty about what may happen next,” he says. While neither of the new agreements is perfect, Shay notes that “both are better than what could’ve happened.”

On transformation:

Shay says the conversation about the convergence of physical and digital retail began more than five years ago, but that the discussion was “a bit premature because companies weren’t there, the technology wasn’t there yet.” Today, technology adoption “is really not about digitizing the sales experience,” he says. “Now, it’s about digitizing the entire retail supply chain…from design all the way through sale.” Shay also suggests retailers take the advice of Walmart’s Marc Lore, which he sums up as, “Don’t be distracted by the technology because, remember, at the end of the day, [it’s] simply supposed to make you a better merchant.”

To hear Shay’s thoughts on retail automation, personalization and other trends to watch, listen to the full episode.

Part 2 of our NRF Big Show 2020 series features John Caplan, Chief Growth Officer for Alibaba Global B2B and, and Nicole Reyhle, Founder of Retail Minded and Spokesperson for American Express Small Business Saturday. Part 3 features Greg Petro, CEO of First Insight, and Sean Coxall, President of Li & Fung.