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Omnichannel, diversity, sustainability, and the customer: Key conversations at NRF 2022

Some of the top brands in retail shared their insights at NRF on how the industry moves forward in 2022

Omicron tried its hardest to derail Retail’s Big Show, but NRF 2022 carried on with a full program of top retail speakers and leading industry experts. While the sessions covered diverse subjects from all corners of retail, four topics in particular seemed to be everywhere. Let’s recap what the NRF speakers had to say about omnichannel, diversity, sustainability, and the customer.


One theme carried consistently throughout NRF was how retail still depends on stores.

While discussing some of the current challenges retailers face, Target Board Chairman and CEO Brian Cornell mentioned he finds promise in the consumer behavior trends from the 2021 holiday shopping season. Customers not only returned to the stores but also showed a willingness to adapt to the impacts of inflation, labor shortages, and supply chain disruptions.

Likewise, John Furner, president and CEO of Walmart U.S., cited increased foot traffic in recent months, saying customers love shopping both online and in store. Consumers aren’t exclusively shopping one way or the other; they want the freedom to shop however they want.

As president and CEO of Ralph Lauren Patrice Louvet put it, “We live in an omnichannel world.” He went on to add that retailers must find ways to fulfill consumer needs and expectations while aligning with company goals and brand. For Ralph Lauren, this idea has prompted a brand elevation journey, of both the products and the in-store experience.

IBM Chairman and CEO Arvind Krishna brought the importance of data systems into the omnichannel conversation, emphasizing the advantage for retailers that can leverage consumer and demand data to make better-informed decisions.

Diversity and Inclusion

Another major topic at NRF 2022 was diversity, equity, and inclusion. In honor of Martin Luther King Jr. Day, NRF welcomed the conversation with the DE&I Stage and Showcase, featuring leading retailers as well as experts from the National Urban League and Pymetrics.

A panel featuring speakers from Albertsons Companies Inc., Savage X Fenty, Marjani Beauty, and Best Buy Co. Inc. discussed ways the industry can encourage diversity and work on tackling barriers to inclusion. Much of the talk centered on education and reporting, as well as choosing corporate partners retailers can rely on to help fill the gaps. In addition, the speakers emphasized that diversity efforts must be an ongoing process, not merely a checked box.

Marjani Beauty founder and CEO Kimberly J. Smith also added that true diversity isn’t just about diverse people, but also diverse thought. Christiane Pendarvis, co-president and chief merchandising and design officer of Savage X Fenty, mentioned the importance of creating space in which to share and listen to others’ experiences. We have to help each other understand different perspectives, not just assume everyone already knows about certain experiences or how prevalent they are.

Mark Irvin, chief inclusion, diversity, and talent officer for Best Buy, believes 2022 is the year in which to act. He called on retailers to stop making commitments and start executing them.

But it wasn’t just retailers on the DE&I stage who spoke about diversity. As part of the opening remarks Sunday morning, Walmart’s John Furner called for transparency around diversity and inclusion in retail, saying awareness in this area presents retailers with an opportunity to build up the most talented workforce.


Sustainability was also included in our roundup of highlights from NRF 2021. It should really come as no surprise that the topic was perhaps even more pervasive this year than last.

Noting the shift, IBM’s Krishna stated sustainability is no longer just an item for retailers to check off their list. Every year, more and more consumers are willing to change their purchasing behaviors to protect the environment and even pay a premium for sustainable products. Shoppers are aware of which retailers are actively engaging in the sustainability conversation and which aren’t.

Ralph Lauren’s Louvet shared a similar sentiment, cautioning that companies not prioritizing sustainability will have “a serious problem with their consumers, their employees, and their partners.”

As an industry, fashion doesn’t get the best marks for being eco-friendly. However, Louvet said this is something Ralph Lauren is looking to change. They have been increasing their sustainability efforts and hopes to help lead others in the charge.

Known for its shoes and handbags made from recycled plastic waste, Rothy’s has always been on a sustainability mission. But even a company founded on eco-friendly principles can find areas to improve. According to Saskia van Gendt, head of sustainability at Rothy’s, ownership is an important piece. The more you own, the more you can control and improve. But with that ownership also comes the responsibility to be the change.

Another thing Rothy’s has learned over the years is successful sustainability requires everyone. Van Gendt noted they rely on every part of the company, as well as external advisors and customers, to inform and execute their efforts to reduce waste and carbon emissions.

In Tuesday’s keynote, Javier Quiñones, CEO and chief sustainability officer of IKEA U.S., acknowledged some of the challenges retailers face with sustainability. Making a real difference requires top-level commitment and could even require a culture shift. But the most important thing is just to get started. “Start with movement,” said Quiñones. “Getting paralyzed is not an option.”

The Customer

After almost two years of high consumer behavior fluctuation and low brand loyalty, retail is still all about what the customer wants.

In talking about the issue of loyalty, Krishna said it’s no longer about customers being loyal to stores, but rather stores being loyal to customers. In a similar line of thought, Corie Barry, CEO of Best Buy, noted shoppers now expect an amazing experience. “They want magic,” she said.

And the risks of not meeting those expectations are high. As Furner put it, “Loyalty in retail is the absence of something better. When [customers] find it, they’re gone.”

So, what does it take for retailers to hold on to customer loyalty these days? According to Furner, retailers must solve problems and serve shoppers. As Chewy CEO Sumit Singh pointed out, employee relations play a big role in this. Happy employees serve customers better, creating good customer experiences and boosting loyalty.

Singh also cautioned retailers against losing sight of the customer in the weeds of innovation. Short-term goals and decisions must always be informed by long-term objectives, and those should always align with quality customer care.

One company that has long been a leader in building customer loyalty is Albertsons. Vivek Sankaran, chief executive officer of Albertsons, spoke about the key elements of building those customer relationships. While personalization, ecommerce, and data are important pieces, what creates true “customer stickiness” is human connection.

Want to explore what these retail trends from NRF 2022 mean for your pricing strategies? Our experts are here to help!

About the Author

Maisie is a content marketer and copywriter specializing in B2B SaaS, ecommerce and retail. She's constantly in pursuit of the perfect combination of words, and a good donut.