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Retail industry celebrated for ‘thriving and winning’

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NEW YORK — National Retail Federation (NRF) chairman Chris Baldwin kicked off the trade group’s 2020 convention here with a positive message about the retail industry’s value and its continued vitality.

Baldwin, who is chairman and chief executive officer of BJ’s Wholesale Club, noted that he took the helm as chairman of NRF two years ago, at a time when many were predicting that the retail industry was in decline, being rendered obsolete by new e-commerce players.

“When I took this role two years ago, I told you from this very stage that I would work with every one of you to frame a new narrative focused on three simple things,” Baldwin said. “First, I wanted to talk more broadly about the transformative power within our industry. I wanted to spend a lot of time speaking about the amazing people who work in our industry. And I wanted to focus on the companies who do so much good and the communities we all have the privilege to serve.

“Together, we’ve been successful in telling this different story. We can be proud that retail is recognized as one of the most consumer-centric and innovative industries in the world today. So today I want to talk about the impact that our reinvention has had on millions and millions of people, the people who are thriving and winning because retail is thriving and winning.”

Retailers have invested billions of dollars to remake their businesses, and in the process they have transformed their industry while also changing the way consumers shop and live.

“As a result of our investments, consumers today quite simply have more,” Baldwin said. “They have more access to products, they have more information, they have more speed and they have more convenience.”

Baldwin noted that 83% of consumers say that convenience is more important to them now than it was five years ago, and the industry’s efforts to address that new priority is shifting more power to the consumer.

“Today, the largest retailers in the world will bring your purchases to the curb for you,” he said. “They’ll ship you virtually anything to your home. They’ll also have it there the next day and, of course, all of this is done with free shipping. The new consumer power is felt in every area of this great industry.”

Baldwin also talked about the role the retail industry has played as an employer.

“One of the things that has always set retailers apart is the opportunities we provide for those entering the job market as teenagers,” he said. “Or for single parents working toward a better life to improve their circumstances. Or for people who have faced challenges in their lives, and are simply looking for new ­beginnings.”

NRF’s Rise Up program helps to provide opportunities for people to join the industry, he said.


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