Will The NRF Show Reflect The Industry?

Will the National Retail Federation's annual show in New York next week show the signs of an industry breaking under an ultra weak economy? Perhaps, but the intial numbers suggest a drop. During last year's show, NRF reported about 18,500 attendees, according to NRF VP Susan Newman. On Wednesday (Jan. 7), just four days before the conference starts, only 11,000 had registered. Last year at this time, 12,000 had registered. To be fair, a healthy chunk of the show's attendees have always registered at the last minute or at the event itself so it's not clear yet where that will shake out, Much more telling—as these numbers appear to be final—are the number of exhibitors. There will be 50 fewer companies exhibiting this year, bringing last year's 580 exhibitors down to 530 this year. On the vendor side, the numbers are actually a lot worse as Newman reports that exhibitors will be bringing some 700 fewer employees to help out. "We will be feeling the effects of the economy," she said. Even among the attendees who will be there, fewer dollars will be spent, with about one-third of those who had previously paid for the full show will this year move into the expo-only segment, which is free for retailers. One area that is sharply up is international. Last year's show boasted 466 non-U.S. companies at the show, a figure that will climb to at least 594 this year, Newman said. The country representing the biggest increase? Brazil.