NRF Show attendees aren’t sure how 2017 will shake out
This week’s NRF Big Show marked the seventh straight year that RetailWire hit the floor at the Jacob K. Javits Center in New York City to ask show attendees in our own random and unscientific manner whether they were more or less optimistic about the industry’s prospects in 2017. After seeing modestly positive year-over-year improvements in mood for six straight years, this year we got … well, caveats.
Two big shadows are casting uncertainty over the industry — Amazon.com and Donald Trump.
In Amazon’s case, many said a tipping point may have occurred over the holidays with a significant number of consumers choosing the site to buy gifts. With more people becoming Prime members, attendees reasoned, they are choosing to order from Amazon and its marketplace sellers rather than other sites or nearby stores.
Amazon has momentum on its side, according to attendees. They pointed to its market capitalization, profits generated by AWS and its move into physical stores as causes for concern.
While many said a well-executed omnichannel response could stave off the Amazon threat (good news) they also questioned whether retailers had the vision, will and resources to do it (bad news).
Mr. Trump, whose inauguration is today, could prove a boon or bane to retailers. On the plus side, Republican control of the White House and Congress should lead to cuts in corporate tax rates and a reduction in environmental and other regulations seen as costly to business. Many expect the Labor Department to be more employer-friendly under Andy Puzder, CEO of CKE Restaurants, should he be confirmed.
As negatives, attendees pointed to the potential for import prices to increase substantially should a trade war break out with China or other nations that retailers rely on to produce the products that line their shelves. A few attendees also voiced concerns that a Trump administration will be less concerned about maintaining America’s strong dollar policy. While a weaker dollar would benefit exports, it would also drive up import prices. Concerns were also expressed about Mr. Trump’s policies on immigration and his temperament.
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: What do you think will be the biggest factors affecting retail industry performance in 2017? Are you more or less optimistic about the industry’s prospects for 2017 compared to what you expected in 2016?