In the opening keynote address kicking off the virtual Chapter 1 of the National Retail Federation Big Show, Mike George, president and CEO of Qurate Retail Group and NRF chairman, spotlighted how the retail sector reacted to the COVID-19 pandemic and social turbulence over the past year, emphasizing how the industry worked to improve conditions in communities around the United States.
He also set out the goals the organization would pursue in the year ahead.
George asserted that retail, despite social, political and consumer turmoil, “demonstrated remarkable agility, remarkable resilience throughout this crisis.”
He asserted that retailers not only worked to keep their businesses succeeding but did so in a way that buoyed customers and employees caught up in tempestuous circumstances.
Particular examples cited by George:
- Sam’s Club developed a concierge app providing contactless shopping for compromised or vulnerable consumers who needed to purchase goods in bulk with minimal risk.
- Lowe’s introduced curbside pick a year ahead of what was previously scheduled.
- Value City Furniture created its own 3D virtual showroom.
- Target established an online reservation system so consumers could claim a spot in any lines outside their neighborhood stores.
“These efforts and so many more perfectly aligned with what our customers needed from us, and the customer responded, enabling us to set and beat many digital sales records,” George noted. “We also provided vital support to our local communities, from free delivery and discounts for health care workers to fund raising for food relief and medical research and PPE manufacturing, and much more.”
George said he was proud of help extended to small business.
“At Qurate Retail, we teamed up with the NRF Foundation on our small business spotlight, which has provided on air and digital exposure across our QVC, HSN and Zulily platforms to 60 small business hard hit by the pandemic,” he said.
George added that the retail community also played a critical role in advancing social justice, equity and inclusion campaigns by offering, among other undertakings, employee resource groups, increased training efforts, offered scholarships and tuition assistance for African-American employees and their families, as well as supporting black-owned businesses.
The industry, with NRF as a standard bearer, successfully advocated for Federal stimulus packages that provided relief to consumers and retailers, George maintained. NRF also launched programs including Operation Open Doors to help retailers reopen safely and manage through the coronavirus-plagued times.
NRF priorities for 2021, Greorge stated, include expanding advocacy on issues such as global trade relations, targeted COVID relief efforts and infrastructure investment, in addition to raising awareness of the role retail plays in growing the economy and creating jobs. Also telling the positive retail story and creating programs and initiatives that drive the profitability and success of NRF’s membership.