NRF’s annual Big Show can be overwhelming ― so many people to see, so many places to be. Every year readers check in with RIS to see what retail news, trends and sessions were all the rage and catch up on what they might have missed. In fact, last year’s Top Ten Takeaways feature was our best-read article of 2018. The following are all the highlights from The Big Show 2019, divided into 10 categories.

The world’s largest retail conference and expo isn’t just a conference, it’s a community. With nearly 40,000 attendees, over four days, NRF 2019 is the place to be.

The Big Show 2019 opened on Sunday, January 13th, with BJ’s Wholesale Club Chairman, president and CEO Chris Baldwin sparking momentum for the bustling three-day retail event, which attracts nearly

40,000 attendees, including 700 exhibitors, and features more than 200 sessions — the equivalent of more than 100 hours of content.

“I would love to say that retail is back, but that would be wrong,” Baldwin said as he opened the show. “Retail never went away. As I stand here today, I can say that our industry is more healthy, vibrant, innovative and exciting than ever.”

Baldwin shared a few statistics about the impact of retail including that the industry supports one in four jobs in the U.S. and contributes $2.6 trillion to the country’s GDP. He also noted that one-third of Americans have their first job in retail and there were 2,000 net new store openings in 2018.

Baldwin also called out the NRF and the NRF Foundation and said they continue advocating for the “people, policies and ideas that keep this wonderful industry vibrant.”

The fifth annual NRF Foundation Gala also took place Sunday, featuring an awards program and formal dinner that included both silent and live auctions. The event raised more than $3.2 million to support the Foundation’s programs, including educational initiatives, student scholarships and RISE Up, an industry-backed credentialing program.

Sensormatic’s returns kiosk gives a glimpse into the future of self service.

eye-catching BOOTHS

Sensormatic Solutions had a large presence on the show floor, displaying it latest RFID and tracking solutions. One of the most intriguing solutions on display was an automated returns solution the vendor recently developed.

The self-service returns kiosk allows shoppers to return merchandise without having to wait on long lines and interact with sales associates. The shopper simply scans their receipt and places the unwanted purchase under a computer vision scanner. The kiosk scans the merchandise to confirm it is indeed what was purchased, the shopper drops the merchandise into a secure drop box, and the solution credits the shopper’s account.

Currently Sensormatic is searching for a major retail partner to pilot the solution and help bring it to market.

As always the Intel booth was an epicenter of innovation and cool. For this year’s show a large portion of the tech giant’s display was focused on its computer vision capabilities and how they can be leveraged to both streamline operations and supercharge the customer experience. Intel had a number of partners in the booth helping demo the game-changing technology including JD.com and Pensa.

JD.com brought its automated vending machine, which allows users to simply tap a mobile application to open the door to the refrigerator-style vendor. Intel’s computer vision technology coupled with cutting-edge scales are able to track what the customer takes from the machine and automatically charge their account. The solution is live in China.

Pensa demonstrated its autonomous perception system in a mocked-up liquor store in the booth. In the demo, the solution leverages an autonomous drone to rapidly scan shelf conditions in the beer section and reach conclusions and make predictions about stockouts and other conditions for sale. Anheuser-Busch InBev — which is a Pensa customer and strategic investor through its ZX Ventures growth and innovation unit — has partnered with Pensa on the demonstration, which is based on a real-world pilot.

Just prior to the show Zebra Technologies Corporation announced that Walgreens is using its enterprise-class handheld mobile computers and tablets to help enhance store operations and transform the shopping experience for customers. The retailer was on hand in the Zebra booth demoing the solutions and explaining how they help associates greater connect with shoppers. Each Walgreens location will have at least one ET50 tablet for store managers and around five TC51 mobile computers for associate use. The mobile units are about 60% deployed across the chain with the rest of the locations coming online throughout the year.

In the Elo booth, California Closets demoed their innovative use of the vendor’s smart table technology. The retailer is currently deploying its next-gen showrooms across the chain, upgrading its 150 in-store locations to greater connect with consumers and display its customizable products.

Since each closet build is unique, providing access to all of the available colors, trims, layouts, etc. is impossible ― there are just too many options to display in-store. To provide easy access to the product catalog and real-world examples of their work California Closets partnered with Elo on a smart table implementation. The next-gen tech allows for greater customer engagement and aided selling, and will be a major piece of all physical locations going forward.

RETAILER DEPLOYMENTS

American Eagle Outfitters and Aila Technologies showcased new interactive fitting room technology, which has been launched in several American Eagle flagship stores. Mounted in each fitting room, Aila’s Interactive Kiosk allows shoppers to scan items on an iOS-based device. Shoppers can immediately see and request other available sizes and styles, receive product recommendations, view running cart totals, and e-mail information to themselves, while store associates receive notifications.

Computer and electronics device retailer Micro Center is using AgilOnes machine learning to drive smarter reactivation campaigns. “In testing AgilOne’s likelihood to buy model, we are seeing very strong potential in reducing costs and optimizing response for our direct mail reactivation campaigns,” said Deneke O’Reilly, VP marketing operations, Micro Center.

Specialty retailer Lolli and Pops has adopted TrueCommerce’s OneTime supplier enablement solution to power new omnichannel initiatives. The platform, integrated with Oracle Fusion and NCR Counterpoint business systems, will help Lolli and Pops expand relationships with suppliers and leading wholesalers.

Intimate apparel brand Adore Me announced partnering with StoreAdvise to implement modern, but nearly invisible, technology including IoT, RFID labels and smart fitting-room displays. These systems combine, allowing shoppers to relax in their fitting room but interact with stylists in real time. They can easily request a different size, style or color garment by using the smart display in the fitting room. Stylists are immediately notified on a mobile device when a shopper requests an item using the display.

Microsoft and Kroger announced earlier this week a partnership designed to empower Kroger and other retailers to create amazing customer experiences and optimize operations. The partnership brings to market a new Retail-as-a-Service (RaaS) offering, which will democratize digital transformation for retailers.

Kroger has also reached an agreement with OneView Commerce, a subsidiary of OneView Group Ltd, to develop a next-generation point-of-sale solution. OneView’s most recent release, OneView Digital Store Version 6, with its headless application and serverless cloud architecture, provides retailers with ownership of the user interface, delivers seamless cross-application integration, and includes an extensive library of point of sale, promotion, and inventory templates.

PGA TOUR Superstore has selected Aptos’s Aptos Merchandise Financial Planning solution to support the golf and tennis retailer’s end-to-end merchandise planning processes, including strategic planning and budgeting, planning by attributes, open to buy, location planning and in-season management.

Travel center operator Pilot Flying J is deploying NCR Corporation’s store architecture solution, NCR Software Defined Store (NCR SDS) enabled by Zynstra. “By shifting our store infrastructure from a hardware centric to a software focused approach, we will be able to increase our speed-of-service, quickly deploy upgrades across our network of stores and add new features and innovations including cloud-enabled services across our chain,” said Mike Rodgers, chief strategy and information officer, Pilot Flying J.

Wine and liquor store BevMo! has partnered with Fellow Inc. to use its Fellow Robots to connect supply chain efficiency with customer delight, backed by Microsoft Azure, Azure AI and Cognitive Services.

Polish fashion retail group LPP is expanding its relationship with Checkpoint Systems with the deployment of a large-scale RFID program to improve merchandise availability, operational efficiency and the consumer experience. The program will be deployed across LPP’s entire supply chain from manufacturing through LPP’s e-commerce platform and to over 1,700 outlets spanning 23 countries. The solution is expected to enhance inventory visibility for its five high fashion retail brands: Reserved, Cropp, House, Mohito and Sinsay.

Mammut Sports Group AG, the Swiss premium outdoor brand, presented its first NFC-enabled products, utilizing NFC tags, software and enabling technology from Smartrac. The brand also launched smartphone app Mammut Connect, which ― when the smartphone is tapped on a product’s NFC touch point ― delivers digital content and services to customers throughout the product’s lifetime.

major TECH ANNOUNCEMENTs

Manhattan Associates extended the capabilities of its Customer Engagement offering with new in-store functionality. Part of the Manhattan Active Omni solution suite, these enhancements give store associates tools and information to offer advanced customer engagement functions like case management, interactive lookbooks, personalized marketing and communication, purchase history and lifetime value.

JDA Software launched new collaborative capabilities within its LuminateStore Optimizer SaaS solution. Its new Dynamic Tasking capability optimizes projects and tasks between retailers’ headquarters and stores, helping corporate employees collaborate and improve communication.

Kronos Incorporated announced enhancements to its next-generation cloud suite, Workforce Dimensions, that streamline operational execution for retail, hospitality, and food service organizations. New Workforce Dimensions features help empower the entire workforce with a fully comprehensive workforce management and human capital management (HCM) experience combining advanced labor volume forecasting, predictive scheduling, and task management.

Shopgate announced the launch of a new suite of modern commerce solutions designed to activate the vision of innovative retailers pursuing an omnichannel strategy. Powered by the Shopgate Connect platform, these new commerce solutions are specifically designed for the custom needs and extensibility of retailers. Shopgate’s new suite of commerce solutions includes: Engage – consumer mobile app, Relate – store associate clienteling, and Deliver – omnichannel order fulfillment.

Oracle Retail launched Oracle Retail Xstore Office Cloud Service. The service centralizes all back-office elements of store operations, eliminating the need for data center investment, providing a faster implementation timeline and creating a more responsive business model attuned to shifts in consumer preferences.

Aptos announced significant updates, integrations and innovations across its Singular Retail suite end-to-end portfolio of software applications. With its latest release, Aptos introduced major updates and functional enhancements across all solutions, including its systems for point of sale, retail planning and order management.

Celerant Technology unveiled its new product catalog, allowing retailers ― across multiple verticals ― to view and import products from within Celerant’s retail solutions. The product catalog is comprised of more than 2.5 million products from over 75,000 well-known brands across multiple retail verticals.

Theatro, pioneers of the world’s first voice-controlled mobile platform for the hourly workforce, announced the launch of its new data analytics suite, a proprietary method of using the platform to track, aggregate, and analyze in-store employee key performance indicators and identify success formulas that can be replicated at scale.

Wiliot, a fabless semiconductor pioneer and innovator, unveiled a sticker sized battery-free Bluetooth sensor tag incorporating an ARM processor powered solely by ambient radio frequencies.

Doddle announced its launch in the United States. Doddle’s technology enables any large-scale retailer to launch an in-store click-and-collect point. For online retailers without brick-and-mortar locations, Doddle gives them the opportunity to have their own in-store pick-up point.

Checkpoint Systems announced HALO, which facilitates maximum efficiency in minimum time by expediting shipping and receiving processes at every step in the supply chain. HALO auto-generates associate alerts throughout the supply chain and in-store, driving improved productivity in receiving, back stocking and restocking high-demand products.

Logility unveiled a set of enhanced capabilities available within the Logility Voyager Solutions Retail Optimization platform….