It’s NRF’s favorite time of year, when our wonderful members, partners and friends come together in New York City to network and share their insights about the retail industry. With more than 160,000 square feet of exhibiting space and over 17,000 attendees, NRF’s 99th Annual Convention and EXPO is sure to be better than ever.
In addition to the familiar, and even new, unfamiliar faces we see around the show, I’m going to introduce you to a few retail reporters who make the trip to our Convention every year to report on what’s new in retail so their readers get a glimpse at what some of the BIGgest retailers have to say during NRF’s BIG Show.
Natalie Zmuda, Retail Reporter for Advertising Age, has been covering the retail industry for seven years. Below she shares her thoughts on exhibitor pitches, how video reporting has become an important aspect of her coverage and what she loves about NRF’s Annual Convention.
At NRF’s 2009 Convention, you brought along a video crew for Ad Age’s website. Has video become a crucial component of your news coverage? (Coverage of 2009 Customer Experience Pavilion)
Yes, it’s definitely become more important. Journalism has moved well beyond simply print coverage. If I’m pitched a story today, it might end up in print, as a web story, on one of our blogs or in a video. Or I might tweet about it @nzmuda. And all of the latest Ad Age news is now available through an iPhone app. It’s really amazing how much journalism and reporting has changed, even in the last five years.
What’s your favorite part about NRF’s Annual Convention?
I always enjoy the Super Sessions. They’re typically stacked with really interesting speakers, and it’s a great opportunity to hear directly from key executives. Occasionally there’s the interesting unscripted remark, as well. Like last year when Tracy Mullin asked Walmart’s Lee Scott about whether he was interested in the open Secretary of Commerce position in the Obama administration.
The EXPO Pavilions are also definitely worth a walk through. I find it’s a good way to stay on top of key trends. Last year I went to the Customer Experience Pavilion and the Green Pavilion. I’ll make a point to visit those again.
In what ways have you seen the economy impact the retail advertising industry?
It’s had a dramatic impact on advertising budgets. Spending at some of the major retailers has been down double digits. At others it’s been down less, but Wal-Mart and Target are among the only major retailers that have actually been increasing their spending. The drop off in demand for media has also meant that there are some good media deals out there for retailers that are looking to spend. We’ve also seen retailers embracing digital media and social media like never before. Certainly, part of that is because they need to, it’s the direction the market is headed. But it’s also cheaper. Radio has also seen a boost, because retailers view it as a very actionable type of media. They can reach consumers in their cars and tell them about a sale that’s happening that day.
When it comes to covering a specific company idea, what does it take to get your attention? If I were an exhibitor or worked in PR for a retailer and wanted to schedule a meeting with you, what would I have to do beforehand to interest you?
A clear, concise pitch. If someone has a sense of what I cover, and more importantly what Ad Age covers, I’m all ears. It also helps when people think big picture. Why is what you’re doing new or different or impactful? And why will people outside of your company care? Also, when it comes to advertising campaigns, I have to say, its advertisers’ job to advertise. We don’t and won’t cover every advertising campaign that comes along.
To grab my attention for a meeting a company needs to have news, or the potential for news, that would work for Ad Age. For those that aren’t retailers, having an established client list with a couple of big names goes a long way.
You live in one of the greatest shopping cities in the world. Where do you shop? What are your favorite restaurants?
There’s great shopping in Brooklyn, where my husband and I live. Barney’s New York is even looking at opening a Co-Op in our neighborhood, according to some reports. I tend to shop mostly at small, local boutiques though. A friend of ours owns a few shops in the area, and I like her sense of style. Beyond that, I guess I’m still a Midwest girl at heart, meaning my shopping habits haven’t changed all that much in the seven years I’ve lived here. I leave all things denim to my husband who covers the category for Women’s Wear Daily.
As for restaurants, again, most of my favorites are in Brooklyn: Henry’s End, The Grocery, Café Habana, Black Mountain Wine Bar. I did recently have an amazing meal at Asiate at the Mandarin Oriental in Manhattan though.