- More than 850 retail executives and students gathered on Sunday for the NRF Foundation Honors at the New York Marriott Marquis in New York City.
- Beneficiaries of the $4 million in funding included numerous educational initiatives, student scholarships and an industry-backed credentialing program.
- Since 2015, the NRF Foundation Honors event has raised $15 million to support the NRF's ongoing efforts.
Hundreds of retail industry experts and professionals may currently be roaming the halls of the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center in New York City for the National Retail Federation's (NRF) annual expo, but earlier this week, many retailers attended a gala to honor the most influential people in the industry.
At the conclusion of the first day of the NRF 2020 Vision: Retail's Big Show this past Sunday, more than 850 retail executives joined board members from the NRF and the NRF Foundation and some of the best and brightest students in the country to celebrate what the NRF dubbed the List of People Shaping Retail's Future.
At the event, NRF Foundation President Ellen Davis touted the retail industry for its ability to help launch successful careers in many fields for millions of Americans, "no matter what family you were born in and no matter where you call home."
"We all believe that retail is a great place to start and a great place to grow," she said. "And we all believe that everyone deserves the chance at a great career."
Retail awards for industry leaders and students
With CNBC retail reporter Courtney Reagan serving as the gala's emcee and co-hosted by Macy's Inc. Chairman and CEO and NRF Foundation Board Chair Jeff Gennette and BJ's Wholesale Club Chairman and CEO and National Retail Federation past Chairman Chris Baldwin, awards were given to some of the retail industry's major luminaries.
At one point during the night, fashion designer Vera Wang presented the NRF's "The Visionary" award to Kohl's CEO Michelle Gass, but a handful of college students who haven't quite made their names in the industry yet were also recognized.
During the Honors, the NRF Foundation awarded its $25,000 Next Generation Scholarship to LeAnn Percivill, a Texas A&M University senior. She was one of five finalists in the country. The foundation also awarded a total of $20,000 to the top team in its Student Challenge competition, with teammates Cayley Creekmore, Shannon Foote, Anna Tiller and Woodley White from Georgia Southern University each receiving $5,000 scholarships.
Shaping the NRF's future
Each year, the NRF's annual gala celebrates the best in the industry and raises funds for the organization's programs. This year's gala raised a record $4 million by the end of the night. According to the NRF, all of that money will support its educational initiatives, ongoing student scholarships and an industry-backed credentialing program called RISE Up. Since 2015, the NRF Foundation's annual awards gala has raised $15 million to support those programs.
The NRF's expo in New York City, which ends today, is one of the highest-profile events in the retail industry. Each year, the event highlights new technological innovations coming to the retail space while providing nearly 40,000 retailers and their business partners an opportunity to meet and network with other retail professionals from around the globe.
Representatives from the NRF and the NRF Foundation assert that facilitating this event fulfills the organization's overall goal of "building the bridge between a growing industry with hundreds of thousands of open positions and job seekers around the country." They work to do that by providing "education, training, scholarships and experiences for job seekers of all ages and backgrounds."