4 key themes from NRF 2022: Retail’s Big Show

NRF 2022: Retail leaders focused on experimentation, diversity, sustainability and optimism

During NRF 2022: Retail’s Big Show in New York City, retail visionaries gathered to tackle retail’s biggest topics, forecast what’s next and accelerate solutions to strengthen the industry.

“Together we have come through a remarkable set of challenges. We have been there for our customers when they needed us the most,” said Mike George, former chairman of the National Retail Federation Board of Directors and former CEO and president of Qurate Retail, Inc. in opening remarks for NRF’s 112th annual conference, held Jan. 16 – 18 at the Javits Center. “We’re ready to accelerate in 2022 no matter what circumstances we face, and NRF will be there with us.”

NRF 2022 featured over 700 exhibitors, more than 300 speakers and 190 sessions. The topics were wide-ranging, but a few consistent themes emerged throughout.

NRF 2022 event recap

Take a look at the NRF 2022: Retail’s Big Show event recap to learn more about this year’s sessions.


During his keynote session, Target CEO Brian Cornell said consumers flocked to stores to vote with their “wallet and their footsteps,” giving him “incredible optimism” that the momentum will continue despite challenges from the coronavirus.

Retailers like Best Buy are also optimistic about employee morale as they prioritize corporate social responsibility. Corie Barry, CEO of Best Buy Inc., said the company is empowering its employees by connecting their values to the bigger company’s purpose. “Our employees really want to leave a broader mark on the world,” Barry said. “When they connect their purpose to our cohesive dedication to leaving our communities better than we found them, that’s when real magic happens.”


To sustain the new consumer enthusiasm from the pandemic, retailers needed to bolster their willingness to embrace change, according to Chewy CEO Sumit Singh. As the consumer became the focus of operations, Singh said many leaders began to prioritize qualitative metrics for success. Chewy found active listening and curiosity became a way to solve problems.

Through similar experimentation, Patrice Louvet, president and CEO of Ralph Lauren, said his company shifted to purposeful and optimistic messaging during the pandemic to energize and create more moments of discovery. The company continues to find new ways for consumers to express themselves through fashion in the metaverse and beyond.

Diversity, equity and inclusion

Advancing retail’s impact requires the continuation of equitable practices that provide opportunities to access, learn and grow through careers in the industry.

“In order to be successful, you need to have everybody at the table,” YUM! Brands Chief Equity and Inclusion Officer James Fripp said during the “Recruit, advance and retain: Scaling DEI efforts in today’s market landscape” keynote discussion. Fripp appeared with The Vitamin Shoppe CEO Sharon Leite and Saks OFF 5TH President and CEO Paige Thomas in the conversation moderated by entrepreneur and educator James Rhee.

Upcoming NRF Events

Check out future NRF events covering retail law, supply chain, loss prevention and retail technology.

DE&I principles can make or break retailer morale because consumers want to connect with brands that mirror their values, said Morgan Stanley Vice Chairman and Managing Director Carla Harris. Consumers are exercising voice through these experiences and contemplating how retailers can add value to their lives, demanding transparency in how retailers run their organizations and what corporate social responsibility looks like.

Those who are not authentic are at a competitive disadvantage, Harris said. Retailers at NRF 2022 urged leaders to consider consequences for not making progress on diversity, equity and inclusion within their organizations.


Conversations also considered the cost of inaction for sustainability initiatives. Data from a recent Deloitte survey showed people are anxious about the climate and are paying more for sustainable products. IKEA U.S. CEO and Chief Sustainability Officer Javier Quiñones spoke about the retailer’s collaboration with suppliers to create fairer working conditions, how it inspires customers to make more sustainable choices and why using resources intentionally ensures sustainability is a part of the company’s DNA.

“We want to make sustainability affordable for the many, not only affordable for a few,” Quiñones said. “That’s extremely important in the way we see this from the brand’s perspective.”

Additional takeaways from NRF 2022: Retail’s Big Show include:

Don’t miss out on any of the insights from NRF 2022: Retail’s Big Show. Full conference attendees have access to the sessions on demand now.

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