NEW YORK - Matthew Shay, president and CEO of the National Retail Federation, feels the answer to improving the economy lies in the retail industry. In his opening address at the 101st NRF Big Show in New York City, Shay released NRF projections for 2012 that expected growth of 3.4 percent to 2.5 trillion.
"The big show this year really is big," said Shay. "This year's attendance is the biggest in history and it shows the role that retail plays in [the]economy. Voters who will be taking to the polls later this year are asking, 'Where are the jobs?' We know the jobs are in retail."
Speaking with the theme: Retail means jobs, Shay pointed to the fact that the retail industry is responsible for 42-million jobs. Shay also highlighted the fact that one in four American jobs are in the retail industry - more than in any other industry.
Additionally, the speech underscored the record-breaking holiday season that ended 2011 on an economic high point. Despite these positive examples, Shay pointed to three trends retailers need to continue to watch to take full advantage of the projections.
- Convergence of in-store, online and mobile - 70 percent of consumers participate in multi-channel shopping and this has transformed the retail experience. Retailers need to be sure to pay attention to this continued move in order to taste a piece of the projected 2.4 billion pie.
- Highly informed consumers- Shay noted that shoppers are "empowered in ways never before imaginable if [previously] not possible." To combat this retailers and sales associates need to be educated about their products more than ever to satisfy consumer demands.
- Retailers enter new markets- A majority of retail sales happen in other countries, but 95 percent of retailers operate in only one location. With the growth of markets overseas many retailers may be moving to other locations in the coming year to take advantage of potential new customers.
"This is the future of our economy," said Shay. "Retail means jobs and more jobs will lead to greater innovation."