The mood on the floor of the NRF Show was decidedly upbeat this year as exhibitors and attendees pointed to continuing, albeit moderate, economic improvement in the U.S. There was also a general feeling, expressed by Walmart's Bill Simon in his address to the convention, that retailers in a post-election environment were no longer going to wait for hoped-for changes in the nation's capital and instead make the investments necessary to drive their businesses forward.
As in the past, RetailWire (in an unscientific manner) asked people at the show to gauge their optimism (or lack thereof) for the retail industry's prospects in the upcoming year compared to where they were at this time in 2012.
In last year's poll, 34 percent said they were much more optimistic while 56 percent were somewhat more optimistic. Only three percent of BIG Show attendees in 2012 were less optimistic.
By contrast, 41 percent at this year's show were much more optimistic, 51 percent were somewhat more optimistic and eight percent were neither more nor less optimistic. None were less optimistic about the industry's outlook for 2013.
The single biggest caveat associated with 2013's prospects from those speaking with RetailWire was whether or not the Republican majority in Congress would vote to fund America's debts or default. Even those who self-identified as political conservatives said a default would be extremely harmful to the economy. Almost all, however, said the budget deficit was a separate issue on which both political parties needed to compromise for the nation's benefit in the year ahead.
While mentioned less frequently, Mother Nature was also given as a wildcard factor for 2013. Sources spoke to last year's drought in the Midwest and Hurricane Sandy as weather events with far-ranging effects on retailing and the economy.
How much more or less optimistic are you about the retail industry's prospects for the coming year?