Accelerating into retail’s future

How the NRF Foundation Student Program supports the next generation of industry leaders

The 2023 NRF Foundation Student Program closes today after three days of experiential tours and talks, inspiring speakers, interactive breakout sessions and invaluable executive mentoring and career recruiting opportunities.

Some 1,057 students, 124 educators, 105 mentors, 41 speakers and 150 recruiters gathered at the Marriott Marquis in Times Square for this year’s program. A total of 29 companies sponsored the event in New York City.

The program began Friday with opening speaker Tony Spring, NRF Foundation board chairman and Bloomingdale’s chairman and CEO, sharing how the iconic department store is celebrating 150 years globally alongside his vision for the future as a leading retailer. “We are going to continue to strive to always be like no other,” Spring said.

Following was keynote speaker Mark Irvin, Best Buy’s chief supply chain officer, who offered insight from his 30 years of experience. Irvin touched on the significance of the supply chain, elaborating on the transferable skills and human-centered leadership it takes to oversee Best Buy’s global supply chain strategy. “At Best Buy we’ve tried to anchor on the ability to build a human-centered data-enabled supply chain,” Irvin said, “so that we are absolutely world class.”

Friday’s lineup also included the NRF Foundation Young Professionals Panel, featuring recent graduates and NRF Foundation scholarship recipients who shared their experiences working in the industry and offered professional advice for students. The group included Robert Davison-Long, department manager for Prada Group; Eugene Choi, senior digital site merchandiser for PetSmart; Courtney Nash, senior supply chain and merchandise manager for Allbirds; and Amaiya Sims, founder and CEO of Amaiya’s Atelier and assistant stylist for Shopbop and Nordstrom.

"That little bit of extra work that you do on your job when you’re working for someone else is something that is going to prepare you to be in your own business."

Steve Madden

This year’s Student Program included two new breakout sessions — Supply Chain Solutions for Retail and Beyond, presented by Best Buy, and The Future of Retail - Powered by Technology — both offered exclusively for recipients of the NRF Foundation Ray Greenly Scholarship.

Friday’s sessions closed with remarks from Steve Madden, creative and design chief at Steve Madden, who spoke on his experience overcoming personal challenges and the value of grit. “That little bit of extra work that you do on your job when you’re working for someone else is something that is going to prepare you to be in your own business,” Madden said.

Students wrapped up the program by putting on their networking hats, attending Executive Mentor Experience, presented by American Express, and visiting the sold-out career fair on Saturday. Selected students were invited back to the Get Hired event on Sunday to interview on-site for internship and entry-level roles.

Programming concludes tonight with the NRF Foundation Honors, celebrating the industry’s rising stars, including the recipient of the Next Generation Scholarship, who receives a prize of $25,000, and the top team in the Student Challenge Scholarship, each member of which receives a $5,000 prize. The Honors also recognizes The Visionary 2023, Lowe’s Chairman and CEO Marvin Ellison, and The List of People Shaping Retail’s Future.

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