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Recap Of The NRF 2023 – Retail’s BIG SHOW (W/ Video)


Retail’s Big Show is retail’s most important event. With three days of educational programing, an enormous Expo featuring the latest retail solutions, plus an Innovation Lab and Startup Zone featuring breakthrough technology. NRF 2023, Retails Big show wrapped up last week at the Jacob Javits Convention Center in New York City. National Retail Federation happens to be the world’s largest retail trade association representing the largest private-sector industry in the US, with over $2.6 Trillion contributions to the GDP. This is where the entire retail industry comes together to hear from the biggest changemakers, experience the latest innovations. NRF Annual Convention & EXPO, also known as the “Retail’s Big Show,” is the flagship event of NRF. Now a world-leading annual retail event, it brings thousands of retailers and vendors from over 90 countries for educational and networking opportunities. It started in 1911; it’s in its 112th year of existence, which is quite a milestone. Post the pandemic this was the second physical event in a row. Even though 2021 was a physical event, some of the companies had pulled back in the face of Omicron wave. This year, the show was back in its full glory, spread over three days, with 175 plus sessions, 350 plus speakers, and over 1000 exhibitors.

Here’s a video recap of NRF 2023.

A new addition to the show was the “Consumer Product Showcase” which offered retail buyers and merchandisers the chance to meet with carefully selected small business owners to learn about their businesses and explore their products. The Consumer Product Showcase was open to all attendees. This new program was sponsored by American Express, SAP, and Amazon. Some of the featured innovation themes this year included Ecommerce marketplace and multi-vendor, Digital display shelves, Digital storefront, Retail store tracking and automation tech.

This year’s event was spread across four days: 14th – 17th January, with the first day dedicated mainly towards networking, retail store tours, and opening night party. The other 3 days were dedicated to the core sessions that included the Keynote sessions, Featured sessions, Big Ideas sessions, Partner Perspectives, and expo tours.


McFadyen Digital has been a participant at the “Retails Big Show” for the last 13 years and yet it was different this year. McFadyen Digital was the proud Bronze Sponsor at this event. Our team was the biggest ever to participate with 11 members that included folks from leadership, strategy, sales, and marketing.  The Marketplace Experts were heavily involved with a big show with several of its clients in attendance and participating in the sessions, with many of its partners also sponsoring and participating.

McFadyen participation at the event began with the sponsor of VIP Awards that happened just a day before the start of NRF 2023 on Friday, January 13th, 2023 at Gotham Hall, NYC.

The Vendors in Partnership (VIP) Awards are an industry celebration for the solution providers that power the retail ecosystem, and the new ways that partnerships were formed, and challenges were overcome. VIP awards aims to acknowledge service to this industry and recognizes and celebrate a willingness to transform from within, create deep and perceptive partnerships, and great solutions. McFadyen Digital presented the following awards at the show.

Best Commerce or Multi-Vendor Platform – Tom McFadyen, Author & CEO at McFadyen Digital presented commercetools with the award for Best Commerce or Multi-Vendor Platform. The fellow finalist in this category included Logicbroker, Marketplacer, Maropost, and Mirakl. commercetools has been partnering with innovative retailers like Express, Ulta, Sharper Image, L.L. Bean, MSC, AT&T, John Lewis, NBCuniversal, Sephora, & Kmart (Australia) for ecommerce enablement. As a founding member of the MACHalliance, commercetools pioneered ecommerce with a Microservices API-first Cloud-native Headless approach.  Interestingly McFadyen Digital was recognized by commercetools as their midmarket partner of the year for 2022 recently.

Best Breakthrough Technology Solution – Tom Gaydos, CMO at McFadyen Digital presented the Best Breakthrough Technology Solution award at the VIP Awards to Salesfloor. The fellow finalists in this category included Pathr.ai, Perfect Corp., AutoStore™, and Wiliot.

Best Unified Customer Experience – Adam Thibodeaux, Director of Sales at McFadyen Digital presented the award for Best Unified Customer Experience to Bloomreach. The fellow finalists in this category included Proximityinsight, Algolia, Epsilon, talkdesk, Predict Spring, NANOVO, and Salesfloor.


McFadyen was a huge presence at the NRF’s Big Ideas Session, where hundreds of exhibitors and solution providers shared case studies and product demos. It presented two sessions, one by Tom McFadyen and the other by Peter Evans, Chief Strategy Officer at McFadyen.

Marketplace, Dropship, or Hybrid: Strategies for Multi-Vendor Ecommerce Expansion – In this session, Janae Pasquinelli, Walgreens Senior Director of Digital Merchandising and Tom McFadyen, CEO of McFadyen Digital, discussed the best ways to approach retail multi-vendor sales. A great session that delved upon how multi-vendor strategies can improve category expansion, margin improvement, time-to-market, and more. Tom also took this opportunity to present a hard copy of McFadyen Digital’s brand new Whitepaper titled “Marketplace, Drop Ship, and Hybrid Models of Multi-vendor Ecommerce” that looks at the three business models that multi-vendor commerce can leverage. Download the White Paper here to learn the differences between drop and marketplace models. While each of these business models/ fulfillment options have their benefits and challenges, the good news is that they are not mutually exclusive and can all be leveraged to various degrees depending on the business need of the marketplace operator.

The video of this full session is now available via the McFadyen Digital YouTube channel:

Web3: Retail’s 3 Year Roadmap – This was the session headed by Peter Evans, PhD, McFadyen Digital’s Chief Strategy Officer and Nick Katsivelos, Global Media Industry Digital Strategy Director for Microsoft that discussed how retailers can separate the hype from reality when building a robust Web3 strategy. The dawning of Web3 brings many exciting possibilities for retailers to further engage with customers and drive scalable profit. But do new innovations such as the Metaverse, NFTs, Cryptocurrencies, AI (i.e., ChatGPT) and digital goods marketplaces new channels to growth and customer engagement or high-risk ventures with uncertain returns.

The video of this full session is now available via the McFadyen Digital YouTube channel:

Apart from the above, McFadyen was part of all the key events like the AMC Council Panel Discussion, several Marketplace Chats filmed at the McFadyen media center, and the NRF Grand Prix Social Party at the Manhattan Classic Car Club. Let’s look at some noteworthy session from the three days.


The opening day had a full day of networking with retail store tours at designated locations. Guided Retail Store Tours could be purchased when you register for NRF 2023 or through the dashboard. This was followed by the opening party evening at 6.00 pm. The party at Marriot Marquee was filled with big energy that helped lift the prior year’s pandemic fog. It welcomed the participants at the show in grand style with drinks and hors d’oeuvres. There were a lot of fun activities to be part of, like the DJ, Cigar rolling, Wheel of prizes, and roaming magician.

NRF Chairman’s Welcome and Opening Remarks – Walmart U.S. President, CEO, and NRF Board Chairman, John Furner welcomed attendees and provided an overview of the current retail industry challenges and opportunities. This was followed by The Huddle with John Furner and Harvard Business School’s Dr. James Cash. In this session, John took his popular video podcast, “The Huddle with John Furner,” on the road, hosting a candid conversation with Dr. James Cash, The James E. Robison Professor and Senior Associate Dean, Emeritus at Harvard Business School. In this video podcast format recorded live at Retail’s Big Show, Dr. Cash shared his business and leadership perspectives, drawing from his vast experience that includes holding board positions at 15 Fortune 100 companies, including Walmart.

Charting its Own Course: Macy’s, Inc. Chairman and CEO Jeff Gennette on Leading Through Transformation and Purpose – Macy’s, Inc. chairman and CEO is leading the way when it comes to changing industry perceptions and reshaping the future of U.S. Retail. Jeff Gennette elaborated on his plans to make Macy’s a purpose-driven, digitally-led, modern department store. He went on to highlight Macy’s investments in new capabilities, a solid foundation of financial health, a renewed focus on style and fashion, and a deep commitment to the retailer’s Mission Every One social purpose platform and how he created a culture of transformation and infused new vigor into Macy’s iconic brands. A fantastic session that was full of insights and actionable takeaways for the retailers.

Fueling fulfillment: American Eagle Outfitters’ Quiet Platform – President, Quiet Platforms (a wholly-owned subsidiary of AEO, Inc.) Shekar Natarajan shared his insights about creating an open-source supply chain platform to help simplify retailers’ logistics and delivery networks. It was great to hear perspectives from Shekar and retailer partners on managing performance at the shipment level and ensuring the best decision is made for each parcel to be shipped based on delivery commitment, quality of service, and delivery cost..

Maximizing Ecommerce Profitability for Long Term Growth: Winning Strategies from Top Retailers By VTEX – This session by one of the leading marketplace platform providers provided insights on critical financial and strategic decisions that retailers can make today to optimize their ROI and reduce technical debt, opening them up to future growth. From the VTEX side, there was Mariano Gomide, Founder & Co-CEO, and Jordan Jewell, Analyst-in-Residence, Director – Customer Growth. From the client side, there was Sam James, CDO, Carrefour, and Ney Santos – CTO, Carrefour.

How Target Puts the Practice of Caring into Action – Care, grow, win together – this is what leaders from Target believe is a daily way of life at Target. Brian Cornell, Target board chairman, CEO, NRF’s 2022 Visionary honoree, and a select group of his colleagues talked about the culture of putting the practice of caring into action. Joining him were Kiera Fernandez, senior vice president and chief diversity and inclusion officer; Alexis Sheppert, group vice president of stores, Virginia/North Carolina; Cara Sylvester, executive vice president and chief guest experience officer; and Christina Hennington, executive vice president, and chief growth officer.

The Visionary 2023: Lowe’s Chairman and CEO Marvin Ellison, in conversation with NRF President and CEO Matthew Shay – Since Marvin Ellison took over Lowe’s as CEO, it has witnessed manifold growth in sales, customer service, and community investments. Ellison has been responsible for Lowe’s business transformation by reshaping the company into a world-class omnichannel retailer and employer of choice. In this fireside chat, 2023 honoree Ellison spoke with NRF President and CEO Matthew Shay about his vision for the future of retail and Lowe’s role in bringing it to life through investing in programs that empower young leaders and expand access to opportunity.

Bringing Innovation to Multi-centennial Brands: A Conversation with LVMH Inc. Chairman and CEO Anish Melwani – LMVH, a McFadyen Digital client with a portfolio of over 75 iconic houses spanning all luxury sectors, is renowned for its ability to nurture the appeal of legacy brands. Chairman & CEO Anish Melwani shared some of the success tips on how the right mix of heritage and innovation makes the world’s most beloved luxury houses continue to shine in the 21st century.

Reimagining Retail Through Consumer Insights: A Conversation with Petco CEO Ron Coughlin – The pet industry has seen massive growth since the pandemic as work-from-home, and hybrid models have allowed people to bring more pets into their families. This category continues to grow, with pet parents investing in premium products and services. In this fireside chat Petco CEO Ron Coughlin spoke on how Petco has accelerated omnichannel growth by reengineering its business to meet consumer dynamics, which he believes other retailers can implement.

Preparing for the Future of Retail with Mattel and Shopify – The past few years have shown that change is the only constant in commerce. Only businesses with the skill and will to transform can withstand supply chain challenges, increasing consumer expectations of privacy and advertising shifts. In this fireside chat, Shopify President Harley Finkelstein and Mattel President/COO Richard Dickson delved into strategies to break through current business pressures, innovate, and maintain staying power to meet the demands of the modern consumer.

How Macy’s & Dormify Built Standout Marketplace Strategies to Power Ecommerce Growth by Mirakl – In this session hosted by Adrien Nussenbaum, Co-Founder and Co-CEO Mirakl, Macy’s CDO Matt Baer shed light on the marketplace strategies that are helping Macy’s thrive in the current retail environment. Amanda Zuckerman, Co-Founder and Chief Brand Officer at Dormify, joined the session to talk about how it uses the marketplace to boost its eCommerce growth. The session was full of marketplace insights that highlighted the difference between a thriving online marketplace and one that fails. It showcased how marketplaces protect retailers from inventory imbalances, profitably unlock new categories, and grow their share of wallet when done right..

Neiman Marcus’s Cloud Journey to Transform Luxury Retail on AWS produced by Amazon Web Services – In this session, Vijay Karthik, Senior VP, and CTO at Neiman Marcus Group, discussed their ongoing digital transformation and the company’s retail journey to the cloud. Vijay stressed the importance of changing the culture to a cloud-first mindset from a technology and people perspective. He also elaborated on the lessons they learned on this journey, their achievements so far, and their vision for the future. The most important lesson is – remaining a leader in luxury retail requires innovation to maintain the personalized luxury experiences that their customers expect.

Marketplace Technology & Strategy – The Next Big Thing in Growth for Leading Commerce Players by Marketplacer – In this fun session Bob Schwartz, industry internet retail veteran (founding president of Nordstrom.com & Magento), interviewed Nick Blatt, Head of E-commerce & Digital at Chemist Warehouse. Nick Blatt talked about how deploying an expansive online marketplace strategy and technology helped Chemist Warehouse drive real growth and drastically expand its product range without assuming typical inventory risks. Chemist Warehouse happens to be the leading online pharmacy in Australia, with over 500 stores.

Kroger Transforms the Customer Store Experience with Simulation, Edge and AI by Lenovo/NVIDIA – In this fireside chat, Wes Rhodes, Kroger’s VP of Technology Transformation and R&D, discussed how his team used simulation and digital twins to optimize store layouts and checkout processes. This session also touched on digital avatars for shopping assistance and delivering the most personalized omnichannel shopping experience using AI. In this session, Wes was joined by Charles Ferland, Vice President & General Manager, Edge Computing & Communication Service Providers, Lenovo, and Azita Martin, VP & GM of Artificial Intelligence for Retail and CPG at NVIDIA.

State of the US Markets and Economy with Charles Schwab Chief Investment Strategist Liz Ann Sonders – In this keynote session, Martine Reardon, Chief Marketing Officer & EVP Content & Membership, NRF, spoke with Liz Ann Sonders. The session provided great insights and helped the audience dive deeper into the markets, economic trends, and investor sentiment with Charles Schwab’s Chief Investment Strategist.

Sink or Swim: How Poolwerx is Reimagining Their Digital Commerce Future with Spryker – In this fireside chat Andrew Gerasimov, VP of Customer Success & Expert Consulting, Spryker, spoke with Shannon O’Brien, Chief Innovation & Technology Officer, Poolwerx, about digitally transforming their rapidly growing sophisticated franchise business with a fully composable platform and beyond. In this case, Spryker helped Poolwerx sell products and new digital services online beyond commerce, enabled sophisticated commerce to support in-store clienteling, and helped Poolwerx develop a holistic approach to composable commerce. It was a fantastic business case that showed how marketplace platforms are helping businesses transform.


The National Retail Federation must be lauded for organizing an event of such magnitude; it managed over 1000 exhibitors, 175 sessions, and over 350 speakers with an estimated audience of over 35,000 spread across three days. Here are some key themes played out in this year’s edition. Marketplace and multi-vendor commerce continue to drive innovation and transformation in the retail industry. Even though attendees talked about inflation and the downturn, it wasn’t part of most presentations. Many prominent speakers discussed Web 3.0, including McFadyen Digital’s Peter Evans, mainly focussing on how it would help reduce friction from customer experience. Environmental issues and sustainability were also prominent themes around many sessions, with consumers willing to pay more for eco-friendly products.

Retailers today face a volatile market and many unprecedented challenges. The need of the hour is to navigate fast-changing consumer behaviors and economic conditions and stay ahead of the game. NRF 2023 provided them with the perfect opportunity by equipping them with knowledge and presenting ideas from the retail industry’s brightest solution providers – The ideas, people, and partners that will put them on the fast track to success. That is what NRF – Retail’s BIG Show is all about.

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