Major retailers cancel NRF Big Show plans amid COVID fears

Major retailers cancel NRF Big Show plans amid COVID fears

During Black Friday sales in Brooklyn, New York, U.S. November 26, 2021, shopping carts are wheeled outside a Target Store. REUTERS Brendan McDermid

NEW YORK, NY - Jan 14, Reuters -- Target Corp TGT.N and computer software company SAS are among the major companies that have canceled their biggest annual trade show, which is scheduled to start Sunday in New York City's Javits Center.

Target, which had at least five executives slated to attend, said it has reduced team travel and its execs, including the President of the Target Foundation, Amanda Nusz, would now host virtual sessions. The SAS, which sponsored at least eight sessions, announced on Twitter that it was also participating virtually.

The National Retail Federation's NRF Big Show is a major convention that pushes forward with plans that could lead to a potential super spreader event, despite the Omicron variant of COVID 19 ripping through New York.

Nearly 70 attendees, including some Samsung executives, tested positive for the virus at the Consumer Electronics Show last week. It wasn't clear whether they had contracted the virus at the convention.

One Twitter user said he had canceled his NRF plans after he contracted COVID - 19 at the consumer electronics event.

NRF requires conference attendees to show proof of vaccination and wear masks. N 95 and KN 95 masks will be distributed along with COVID 19 rapid tests.

As we move from the Pandemic to endemic — a new environment in which we say life can and should go on — there is going to be a lot of friction as we adjust. NRF chief executive Matthew Shay said in a LinkedIn post that this year s show is a step forward and we believe that it is a necessary and meaningful one.

Executives from Walmart WMT.N Chewy CHWY.N Best Buy BBY.N and cloud-based retail platform NewStore are planning to attend the 15,000-person retail trade show.

Phil Granof, the chief marketing officer, said NewStore is hosting a booth but dialing back external activities for the retail show. The number of employees at the conference has been reduced from 40 in previous years, and the company is cancelling one-on-one networking dinners, one-on-one meetings and halving the number of employees at the conference.

Granof said that there is less competition for attention as larger companies pull out. Big corporations are not the only ones that are cancelling plans. The platform for gaming dropped out after taking into account the current case numbers and employee and vendor comfort level. I cancelled my plans last week. After 15 years in a row, it missed it two years in a row. This year would have been my 17th, said ShiSh Shridhar, global retail head of Microsoft MSFT.O for Startups, on Twitter.

The updated COVID protocols were released in December by the NRF, so the conference had the green light to go on with 25,000 planned attendees and 900 exhibitors. By January 12, the NRF said there were 15,000 confirmed attendees and 750 vendors.

Granof said that the conference's attendance drops because it becomes safer.