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Results of NRF2021: welcome in the era of reinvented commerce!

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The International Retail “grand-messe”, which takes place every year in January in New York, took place online over two weeks for its first chapter. Chapter two, which was supposed to take place in June physically in New York, will not finally take place in the American city. This first chapter of the NRF Retail’s Big Show 2021 brought together about 20,000 participants around a major topic: how to rethink trade in the midst of a global pandemic?

It should be noted that e-commerce would have gained 150 million users in the United States since the beginning of the health crisis.

Logistics to the rescue of trade

At the various conferences, the logistical performance of retailers was at the heart of many discussions. Indeed, many have to rethink their processes and offer new delivery or withdrawal services. Surprisingly, it seems that the American distribution industry has discovered the benefits of withdrawing orders by Click & Collect or Drive. The Drive or «Curbside» was a real success since the beginning of the pandemic for the historical actors of the trade that are Walmart or TargetRetailers who have transformed their stores into a «Dark Store» to manage deliveries and withdrawals of e-commerce orders. Bed Bath and Beyond even plans to convert 25% of its stores into logistics centers to improve its delivery times.


Drône Walmart

It is also for distributors to optimize their processes in the preparation of orders until delivery. A delivery that becomes strategic when 55% of consumers want delivery in less than two hours for their online orders (source PwC). However, a majority of consumers are ready for a collaborative delivery service, which is excellent news for the start-up ShopopopAnother solution for smaller retailers is also the peer-to-peer sharing of their logistics infrastructure as proposed by start-up Cahoot.

Intro Walmart


However, we feel that the triptych 5G, automated logistics micro-centers and delivery by robots is becoming the reality of trade in 2025, especially in urban areas. Moreover, 27% of consumers are ready to automate their food orders for recurring orders.

Robot Walmart

The contactless trade

For Dunnhumby, the consumer today is looking for speed when he goes to the store because he equates speed with health safety. Retailers must therefore invest in systems that speed up checkout, payment and limit queues.


Many self-scanning solutions were present in the exhibitors, such as Scandit or Nomitri Gmbh. It is also amusing to remember that the first tests in this field took place in France more than 8 years ago. Obviously, the solutions to make the store intelligent, even autonomous, thanks to image recognition were also present, as with the French start-up It should be noted that Hudson will use Amazon’s “Just walk out” technology in its airport stores.


Contactless payment, meanwhile, is booming with covid-19, today 75% of VISA payment card users prefer contactless payment. 78% have changed their ways of paying for their purchases and 60% prioritize contactless payment stores. A contactless payment that is also found in the rise of startups like Venmo.

The streaming shop still has the wind in its sails since it now represents more than 11% of Chinese e-commerce. In the USA, Lululemon made more than 4,000 online appointments during the last Black Friday.In France, the start-up Caast.TV offers solutions to support retailers in the era of live streaming.

Towards committed and responsible trade

In parallel with Covid-19, the other key topic was sustainable trade. From Ikea to Walmart, a large majority of retailers are positioned to develop a responsible and committed business.


Moreover, the NRF did not remain insensitive to the attack of the Capitol by strongly condemning this act at its opening conference. According to Jamie Dimon, CEO of JP Morgan, the major American economic players have a duty to fight against social injustices and inequalities. Many of them have donated tens of millions of dollars to fight injustice and support the Americans.

In terms of sustainable commerce, Walmart aims to use 100% renewable energy for the operation of its stores in 2021. H&M remains a textbook case on sustainable trade. Swedish society today uses bio-based or recycled materials. Its mantra has gone from democratizing fashion to democratizing sustainable fashion. Ikea, meanwhile, made the last Black Friday not a commercial event but an event on the circular economy and responsible consumption. The objective was to give a second life to the objects of our daily life instead of going to buy new ones. According to a Microsoft study, two-thirds of consumers include sustainability in their purchasing criteria and more than 50% prefer local products.

HM sustainability

And if this 2021 edition of the NRF Retail’s Big Show was the beginning of the revolution for a socially engaged and sustainable trade. A trade at the service of societal issues. It will therefore be necessary to see at the next edition of the NRF, in January 2022, if this trend has become legion.

As an expert in emerging technologies, Nicolas travels to innovation shows around the world to spot and analyse the new trends.
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