So, you’re planning on trekking out to the beautiful Javits Center in New York City this January to learn about the latest trends in innovative retail technologies? You’ve made a great choice!

NRF 2018 Retail’s BIG Show, taking place from January 14 to 16, is an unparalleled destination for inspiration when it comes to all things retail. It’s a once-a-year opportunity to get hands-on with all of the newest retail software and hardware, hear from some of the industry’s top influencers, and network with professionals who share your passion for the retail business.

About the NRF BIG Show

Big might be an understatement. With over 35,000 attendees and more than 600 exhibitors from all around the world in 200,000 square feet of EXPO space, this event is truly like no other in its space. There’s a LOT to take in at Retail’s BIG Show, so we’ve put together some of our top tips on how to gain the most value from your visit.

Highlights from Last Year’s NRF

Do Your Research

Although the convention teams do a great job of helping attendees navigate the space and plan their days on the spot, there’s a huge benefit to doing a little online research before the event. Start by registering on the NRF website. If it’s your first time visiting the Javits Center, you might want to check out the floor plans before arriving, to help you locate the food court, elevators and escalators, washrooms, and other essentials.

The Center is a very large building on four levels, and will be quite crowded during the EXPO, so it’s advisable to get familiar with the layout and area ahead of time. In fact, stopping by before the EXPO opens can be a great way for first-time attendees to learn their way around without the crowds that appear during peak EXPO hours. The Javits Center’s website also provides information about getting there by foot, subway, bus, train and taxi.

Book Travel Early

If you’re traveling to New York for Retail’s BIG Show and will require overnight accommodations, book early. NRF provides discounted rates when booking through their official housing provider. Aside from preferred rates, you’ll also benefit from the complimentary shuttle service from selected hotels to the Javits Center, making this a hassle-free option. Although January in New York City isn’t exactly peak tourist season, the NRF brings tens of thousands of people to the city, so rooms do book early and rates will rise as the show approaches. We recommend you book your overnight accommodations as soon as possible.

Skip the Lines

Now that we’ve taken care of logistics, let’s get strategic. Aside from researching travel arrangements and learning your way around the convention halls, the most important element to consider before your visit will be the exhibitors. Set a clear goal for what you want to accomplish at the show. At Retail’s BIG Show, you’ll be able to see and learn about everything a retailer could possibly want, and the abundance of options can be overwhelming.

Take some time to review the exhibitor list, and create a prioritized wishlist of vendors you hope to meet. One of our most useful tips is to reach out to the vendors you’re most interested in before the show and request an appointment time. You don’t want to be fighting for the booth staff’s attention when you arrive: by booking appointments with key vendors beforehand, you’ll skip the lines and ensure you’ll get some undivided attention.

Prepare to Unplug

In our experience, it can sometimes be challenging to get a strong wireless signal during the EXPO. Between the exhibitors and the attendees, there are so many signals in the building that there is sometimes interference. Connectivity issues aside, you’ll be busy exploring and meeting with lots of amazing exhibitors, so it’s wise to advise your colleagues back at the office or stores that you might not be reachable for a few hours. Give yourself time to check e-mails and voicemails periodically throughout the day, moving to a different part of the building if needed. This is also a good time to get a little fresh air!

Go Hands-Free

The conference organizers provide coat-checks where attendees can safely drop off their winter gear to visit the EXPO more comfortably. This is a must! Although it’s cold outside in January, the show floor can get warm with all the people in the building, and you’ll want your hands free to touch and try all the retail technology on display. There are also lots of giveaways and collateral to pick up at most booths, so you’ll want to have free hands to take some home. If the lines seem long at the coat check, look around, as there are usually a few different locations, and there’s always a coat check just a few steps away with shorter lines.

Wear comfortable shoes: you’ll be on your feet all day, and when the show is crowded, it can be difficult to find a spot to have a quick rest! Hint: we have plenty of seats for our guests in the Mi9 Retail booth! It’s a good idea to bring along a few business cards, but you don’t need to go overboard: most vendors will ask to simply scan your attendee badge in order to obtain your information for any follow-ups you may have requested.

Give Yourself Time

Even if you don’t plan to spend time with all 600+ exhibitors, visiting NRF 2018 Retail’s BIG Show is a time to take in lots of information and inspiration, and you don’t want to feel rushed during this once-a-year opportunity. Plan for enough time to visit all the exhibits on your wishlist and time to discover new exhibitors you weren’t previously familiar with. You may even want to consider returning for multiple days: it’s truly worth the time. If you’re trying to avoid the crowds, you may want to consider planning your visit for the Sunday or the Tuesday.

You will also want to plan how you’ll spend your time outside of the EXPO. Check out NRF’s online schedule for information about keynotes, breakout sessions, and NRF-hosted events. There’s also lots going on in the city, with many exhibitors hosting events in the area. These can be great networking opportunities, so ask around to your preferred vendors to hear about what’s happening outside of show hours.

At Mi9 Retail, we are NRF veterans, having exhibited for many years. We love the energy and excitement of Retail’s BIG Show and can’t wait to return in 2018! We hope you’ll stop by and visit us in booth 4020, and request an appointment for some guaranteed one-on-one attention.

We’ll be showcasing all of our newest innovations in customer engagement, OMS, analytics and much more to help you sell the way your customers buy! Stay tuned for some exciting announcements as we approach the event. In the meantime, we invite you to check out last year’s recap, complete with photos and top trends from the event.