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Q&A: A NRF Survival Guide

  • 7th January 2019

Written by Anna Murphy, Communications Lead

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Alex Broxson, Retail Assist’s Head of Marketing, shares her top tips

Written by Anna Murphy, Communications Executive

2019 will mark the 8th year that Retail Assist has attended the National Retail Federation’s (NRF) Big Show in New York. Taking place at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center from Sunday 13th January – Tuesday 15th January 2019, Retail Assist’s Marketing Team will be bringing the latest tech updates and developments live from the Expo Hall.

However, as a Big Show newbie, I haven’t got a clue where to start. But, luckily for me, Alex Broxson, Retail Assist’s Head of Marketing, is here to give me her top tips.

NRF Survival Guide

Q: Alex, this is your 4th year of attending. What are you most looking forward to experiencing this year?

Obviously the bright lights of New York certainly gives the show an exciting buzz.  Not only this, but it is often THE show to go to meet up with the majority of UK retailing, so I’m looking forward to seeing everyone there, too.

For me, I find the ‘Innovation Hub’ one of the most exciting areas of the show.  It is here that we tend to see the latest in retailing and each year the area is allocated more and more space, so it’s definitely worth checking out. 

The last time I attended the show in 2016, we spoke to IBM Watson and a car retailer in our Vlog; they had teamed up to develop machine learning, so that the car learnt about regular journeys to offer the driver incentives from retailers and leisure providers whilst driving around.  This technology was completely geared around the personalisation of messaging (literally!).

We also saw the introduction of contactless payment technology.  The most interesting take away for me was a ring that was pre-credited with money, which you could then pay with.  It gained power from the blood pumping around your veins: I found this pretty incredible.

Aside from the show, the networking events will be great; it’s at these events that we look forward to catching up with faces old and new.

Q: This will be my first experience of the NRF Big Show. Here at Retail Assist, we specialise in fashion retail, so I’m especially keen to hear your thoughts on what I should pack?!

Firstly, take something warm! New York is always freezing in January. Secondly, wear comfy shoes for the show: it might sound obvious, but there are a lot of miles to cover… Lastly, pack some nice outfits for all retailing events we will be attending whilst out there.  We’ll be heading to the Marriott Marquis on the Sunday evening for the opening night reception, and there’ll also be dinners across the few days that we’re there, including the famous McDonald Butler NRF Party on the Monday evening.

Q: Brilliant, thank you! What are your three essential items to take?

  • My big winter coat!
  • An iPhone, so that we can share the latest updates on social media and You Tube.
  • My ever-expanding Charlotte Tilbury make-up case! (Definitely a requirement for all the vlogs we’ll be shooting whilst we’re there)

Q: The show is set to have 37,000 people attending with 700 exhibitors. Any handy hints for how to get the most out of the experience?

Plan your trip.  It’s a good idea to take a look around the show on the Sunday afternoon when it opens; the scale is so huge, with a lot of content to cover, so scoping out the show before the Monday and Tuesday really helps you to plan your time there.

Prior to attending, make sure you search through the exhibitor list. This really helps you to find who might be there providing the solutions you are looking for.

Don’t forget that networking is key! It’s great to put it out there on your social channels that you’re attending to book up the diary and arrange plenty of meet ups whilst at the show.

Q: As well as my first experience of NRF, this is also my first trip to New York. As a Big Show veteran, can you make any recommendations on sights/things to do whilst there?

I think getting a bus tour is one of the best things to do to see everything whilst in New York – especially if you’re a bit pushed for time! For me, as a keen runner, getting in a run in Central Park is also one of the best running venues you could wish for.

The top of the Rockefeller Center is amazing to see the New York skyline, but if you want to have a drink whilst taking in the sights then ‘The View’, the bar at the top of the Marriott Marquis, is brilliant.

However, if it’s an all-American bar experience that you’re after, with nachos and ribs for the after show wind down (before the evening starts again!) then a Retail Assist classic venue has to be Virgil’s Real Barbeque on Times Square. And, for the late evening entertainment, we have often ended up in Tonic, the karaoke bar on Times Square. And no, I can’t divulge what my karaoke song of choice is!

Right…let’s get packing!


Fancy joining Alex and Anna for a coffee at the show or a drink at The View? Get in touch here! If you can’t make it this year, keep up-to-date with the latest retail reflections, interviews and industry insights live from the Expo floor via @RetailAssist’s social channels on Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram and Facebook.

NRF Survival Guide


  • 7th January 2019

Written by Anna Murphy, Communications Lead

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