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NRF Plots Virtual Event for January, Bumps Annual Big Show to June

The National Retail Federation has some changes in store for next year’s Big Show.

On Thursday, the retail trade group said it will host a virtual event in January in lieu of its traditional in-person conference and trade show, which will instead be bumped to June and take place at New York City’s Jacob Javits Center as usual.

Both events will take on the theme of “Forward Together,” representing the NRF’s goal of uniting the retail industry on the road to recovery from the coronavirus pandemic.

The digital event is scheduled to take place from Jan. 12-14, with additional dates on Jan. 19, Jan. 21 and Jan. 22. The NRF said attendees can expect “robust content” in combination with a digital exposition. The annual Big Show physical event is set for June 6-8.

“In 2021, we are able to double down on our efforts to explore an exciting future for retail with two unique events,” NRF president and CEO Matthew Shay said in a statement. “This is the time for creative and practical ideas that will shape retail’s future, and these are the events that will showcase those ideas with our visionary and innovative retail leaders and industry partners as we chart the path forward together.”

NRF said it has received unanimous support from its partners, exhibitors and sponsors to move the physical portion of the event further down the calendar, emphasizing the safety of attendees and workers as the highest priority.

“Given the understandable concerns among all of our stakeholders regarding the availability and effectiveness of treatments or a vaccine for the coronavirus, we have concluded it is not feasible to maintain our original schedule of an in-person January 2021 trade show and have decided to reimagine the NRF 2021 annual meeting and convention,” Shay said.

However, once the show is allowed to go on, the NRF said the June event will feature self-guided store and expo tours, red carpet and membership lounges, social events and workshops at the Javits Center and elsewhere throughout the city.

Trade shows are yet another casualty of the pandemic and the future of large in-person expos remains uncertain. On Thursday, men’s contemporary fashion and lifestyle trade show Liberty Fairs followed suit and canceled its 2020 physical event, replacing it with a virtual marketplace on Joor’s digital platform.

Last week, Informa Markets also said it would postpone its September events, including Coterie, Fame, Moda, Sole Commerce and more, instead focusing on an online event in partnership with wholesale e-commerce platform NuOrder.