“Technology and innovation are the life blood for a promising future for retail.”

Exclusive Interview with Matthew Shay, President and CEO of the National Retail Federation

Could you share some key insights into the current trends and challenges facing the retail industry, especially in light of the global changes we’ve experienced recently? 
In the U.S., we see a positive consumer environment as households continue to navigate elevated inflation and economic uncertainty. But the resiliency of the U.S. consumer will be tested in the coming months as headwinds from higher interest rates signaled by the Federal Reserve Bank and tighter credit conditions slow down the economy. 

NRF is working with Congress in the U.S. to advance several priorities on behalf of the retail industry, including reforming the credit card market to encourage competition and lower costs, continuing the fight against organized retail crime and promoting a nationwide consumer-centric data privacy law.

The National Retail Federation plays a pivotal role in shaping policy and advocacy for retailers in the United States. How do you see the NRF’s initiatives and priorities aligning with the goals and interests of international events like Paris Retail Week?
Though advocacy is certainly our top priority, NRF also seeks to advance the retail industry through communications and education. Events like Paris Retail Week convene top retail leaders and their business partners to share ideas and best practices that advance the interests of the industry, worldwide.

The retail industry has been greatly impacted by technology and digital innovation. How is the NRF helping retailers adapt to the digital age, and what emerging technologies do you believe will have the most significant influence on the industry in the coming years?
Technology and innovation are the life blood for a promising future for retail. To advance this important goal, NRF recently launched its Center for Digital Risk & Innovation to serve as the focal point for engagement on technology issues that have significant policy and risk management implications for the global retail industry. The initial areas of focus will include cybersecurity, digital fraud prevention, and artificial intelligence and machine learning.

Retailers have been using AI tools and capabilities for many years to support a variety of use cases, including to predict consumer demand, manage inventory in the supply chain, and prevent online fraud. The development of new generative AI capabilities (such as ChatGPT) has opened the door to many new use cases, including to draft content and descriptions for goods sold online, and for improved chatbot capabilities for customer service and online fulfillment.

We expect to see many new use cases develop in retail in the coming months and years – our retail members both large and small are looking at a variety of opportunities with gen AI that have the possibility of reshaping their business strategy and their relationships with their customers.

Could you elaborate on the NRF’s collaboration and involvement with Paris Retail Week? Why is it important for the NRF to be involved with international retail organizations and events like this. 

We’re grateful to work with like-minded organizations like Paris Retail Week. Comexposium has extensive experience partnering with global industry trade groups and an in-depth understanding of their role and convening power. NRF’s recognized expertise in retail combined with the strength of Comexposium’s network within international retail communities creates stronger, more impactful events for thousands of retailers. June 11-13, 2024, NRF and Comexposium are convening retail professionals from around the globe for NRF 2024: Retail’s Big Show Asia Pacific in Singapore at the Marina Bay Sands Convention Centre.