The National Retail Federation’s annual convention at New York’s Jacob K. Javits Center in January is on track to happen, despite the spike in COVID-19 cases around the world, albeit with increased investments in health and safety protocols.
The NRF said Tuesday that its 112th annual convention, known as “Retail’s Big Show,” is scheduled for Jan. 16 to 18 and expected to draw 25,000 attendees. That compares to the crowd of about 40,000 that came to the convention in 2020, though the NRF said the total number of exhibitors and square footage of exhibit space already exceeds totals for NRF 2020.
The convention in January 2021 was held virtually and spread over six days.
To attend the NRF convention, proof of being fully vaccinated against COVID-19 and indoor mask-wearing is required. In addition, NRF will provide attendees and exhibitors with COVID-19 rapid self-tests, as well as access to PCR tests on-site at the Javits Center. Testing kits will be available at both remote registration sites and at the convention center, and PCR tests will be available on-site at the Javits Center Jan. 17 and Jan. 18. NRF advises that attendees test at home before initiating travel to New York City. Upon arrival, NRF will provide attendees and exhibitors with test kits to use at their discretion.
“Like all of our attendees, we are closely monitoring the external health environment. That’s why we are making additional investments to enhance our existing health protocols, which require vaccination and mask-wearing for all attendees,” Matthew Shay, president and chief executive officer of the NRF, said in a statement.
“We are encouraged by conversations with our partners in the state of New York and New York City who support our efforts, and together we are committed to making this a safe and successful event,” Shay said. “We are also excited to welcome nearly 900 exhibitors as well as hundreds of retailers and thousands of attendees representing brands large and small, from startups to icons. And we will continue to work with local, state and federal health officials to ensure we meet and exceed safety guidelines and mandates.”
The NRF said exhibitors and attendees must be fully vaccinated with a vaccine approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration or World Health Organization. Exhibitors and attendees from the U.S. are encouraged to use the free CLEAR mobile app and Health Pass feature to expedite vaccine validation.
International exhibitors and attendees and those without access to CLEAR will need to provide their proof of vaccination at designated locations on-site.
The Javits Center requires masks to be worn inside the building, including within exhibit booths and in exhibit facilities housing the booths, in conference halls and keynote rooms, and on shuttle buses. Masks will be provided to those without.
The NRF also pointed out that the Javits Center has “greatly” improved its ventilation systems, as well as cleaning and disinfecting practices. Sanitation stations will be positioned throughout the Javits and wider aisles on the exhibit floor will enhance the ability to maintain social distancing, the NRF said.
Asked whether in light of spiking COVID-19 cases the NRF is weighing whether to proceed with staging the convention live or possibly going virtual, an NRF spokeswoman replied, “We are moving forward with Big Show in New York City at the Javits Center and are implementing the additional safety measures outlined in our press release. Big Show will not be held virtually Jan. 16 to 18.”