The state of the retail industry in 2023

Retail Gets Real Episode 293: NRF President and CEO Matthew Shay on the resilient retail landscape heading into 2023

Consumers are eager to get out and shop in 2023 and retailers are ready to meet them in stores and online, according to National Retail Federation President and CEO Matthew Shay.

“I think the return to many of the pre-Covid behaviors of being out shopping, being in stores — we saw that really at the beginning of the holiday season with Thanksgiving,” Shay said on this week’s episode of NRF’s Retail Gets Real podcast. “That five-day stretch really shattered records in terms of our expectations and set the tone. It also shows consumers are going to continue to shop in ways they always have. They’re back in stores, and they love that experience. We all want to be out, and the retail experience is a huge part of that.”

With more than 30 consecutive months of year-over-year growth in sales, the retail industry has been one of the brightest spots of the economy, with retailers overcoming lockdowns, supply chain issues and inflation. “Retailers deserve a lot of credit for finding solutions to the challenges in an inflationary environment and helping deliver goods to consumers in a way that make them still affordable by doing everything they can to hold costs down and deliver value in new ways,” Shay said.

Some of the lessons of the pandemic will continue to play a part in retail, particularly consumers’ “affinity for convenience and seamless, frictionless experiences,” he said.

NRF 2023

Did you miss us in NYC? Take a look at our NRF 2023: Retail's Big Show event recap.

Retailers are realizing they can “deliver a frictionless, seamless experience that’s gotten much better in part driven by the pandemic and the challenges of supply chain issues and store closures and shortages, and consumers really value that,” he said. “That’s one of those behaviors that we’ll see continue to accelerate into the future.”

As for NRF in 2023, Shay said the association will maintain its work on repealing tariffs, improving the supply chain and addressing the broken immigration system that contributes to an ongoing labor shortage and workforce challenges.

“Then there’s the whole category of theft and shrinkage and organized retail crime,” Shay said. “We’ve proposed some legislation at the federal level that will help with preventing the sale of counterfeit goods in online marketplaces and protect consumers there to be sure they know where these goods have been sourced.”

In the meantime, Shay is getting ready for NRF 2023: Retail’s Big Show, which starts on January 15 in the newly expanded Jacob K. Javits Convention Center in New York City. “We should expect energetic, enthusiastic crowds of attendees from around the United States and around the world. I think this event will feel much more like a pre-pandemic event, only better because we’re in a new, expanded facility. The convention center now is really world-class and finally matches the caliber of the event itself.”

Listen to the full podcast to hear more about whether inflation is impacting consumer behavior and how retailers are adjusting, additional advocacy issues NRF will focus on this year, and what to see and do at NRF 2023 as well as Shay’s tips for first-time attendees.


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