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NRF Show Battles Javits Change

The convention center on Tuesday changed its schedule and programmed another event during the Jan. 12 to 15 period that the NRF had reserved.

NEW YORK — The National Retail Federation’s Retail’s Big Show at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center here in January is as inevitable as the month’s post-Christmas sales.

Now the fate of the Big Show at the Javits, where the conference has been held since 2003, is unknown. The Javits on Tuesday changed its schedule and programmed another event during the Jan. 12 to 15 period that the NRF had reserved.

Bill Thorne, NRF senior vice president for communications and public affairs, said, “This was done without any consultation or warning.” The event replacing the Big Show? The boat show. “[New York] Gov. Andrew Cuomo decided that after Hurricane Sandy, the boat industry needs a shot in the arm,” said Thorne. “Our annual convention continues to grow and thrive every year. We had a record 27,600 attendees in 2013. According to NYC & Company, the city’s official marketing, tourism and partnership organization, NRF’s show contributes more than $20 million to the economy.”

Thorne said that Susan Newman, senior vice president of conferences for the NRF, is meeting today with Javits officials and Cuomo representatives. “Our intention is to remain in New York and we’re hopeful that officials will return to the agreed upon event schedule,” he said. “Our hope is that they want to have a conversation about it. If that’s not the case, then the search begins in earnest. We’ve been approached by a number of different cities to consider moving the Big Show. But there’s no better place to have a retail show than the retail capital. The stores and the city being so dynamic makes such a big difference.”

Thorne was hard pressed to think of another venue here that could handle the size of the show. “I don’t think there is another place,” he said. “Next year, we’ll have the entire hall for our show. As soon as it became available it sold out. We’re growing beyond the Javits Center but are committed to it for the next three to five years.”

Asked whether the dates of the convention could be changed, Thorne said, “Retailers have a small window of opportunity. They’re coming off Christmas and in February, they’re gearing up for different sales opportunities so you can’t ask them to leave their jobs.” The mid-January date seems to work best. Besides, retailers are creatures of habit. “People count on it and it’s hard to change their mentality,” he said.