The National Retail Federation’s (NRF) Big Show 2024 featured insights from retail giants Dick’s Sporting Goods, Walmart, Lowe’s and Ulta Beauty. Each shared the importance of investing in technology for supply chain and merchandising, return logistics, omnichannel growth, and AI integration.

Dick’s Sporting Goods: Embracing Continuous Innovation

Ed Stack, Founder, and Executive Chairman of Dick’s Sporting Goods emphasized the dynamic nature of retail. He highlighted the importance of continuous innovation across various disciplines, urging retailers to understand the complexities involved. Stack outlined key areas for investment:

  • Supply chain management: Efficiently managing product flow from manufacturers to distribution centers for timely delivery to stores.
  • Merchandising strategies: Informed decision-making on product selection and timing, facilitated by technology-driven insights.
  • Technology-driven business: Recognizing retail as a technology-driven industry and leveraging technology to address complex problems and stay competitive.
  • Incorporating technological solutions: Adopting e-commerce platforms and integrating AI-driven analytics for enhanced operations.

Walmart: Tackling Return Logistics

Walmart’s Director of Returns and CX Analysis Pat Murphy stressed the importance of ensuring a positive customer experience during returns, emphasizing the need to turn these moments into opportunities for building long-term relationships.

For retailers, optimizing returns for profitability by recovering costs and driving revenue on returned items is crucial. The NRF reported over $743 billion in merchandise returns in 2023.

Post-pandemic, Walmart has adapted to changing consumer behavior with curbside returns and doorstep pick-ups – as close as your kitchen counter.

“If you are a Walmart+ member and need to have a meeting upstairs at home on Zoom, you can just leave that item right on your counter and we’ll pick it up,” Murphy said.

Lowe’s: Omnichannel Growth Driven by Digital-Native Consumers

Seemantini Godbole, Chief Digital and Information Officer at Lowe’s, highlighted the sustained growth of e-commerce adoption in grocery and home improvement categories. Omnichannel growth is particularly driven by younger, digital-native consumers. Godbole emphasized that shoppers engaging in both in-store and online shopping tend to spend more overall.

The convenience of online shopping remains paramount, with omnichannel retailers actively competing against purely e-commerce counterparts while differentiating through exploration and discovery. Data plays a central role in unlocking omnichannel opportunities.

Ulta Beauty: AI Elevating Personalized Shopping

Dave Kimbell, Ulta CEO, noted the resilience of the beauty category and Ulta’s proactive integration of technology. The retailer employs virtual cosmetics Try-On virtual reality technology and AI-driven personalized experiences. Kimbell highlighted the retailer’s investment in emerging technologies, including robotic eyelash extension services and automated skincare capabilities.

Artificial intelligence is expected to play a crucial role in continuously enhancing personalized customer experiences. AI is an opportunity to bring more data and insights into how the retailer can connect with customers, Kimbell said.

NRF’s Big Show 2024 underscored the transformative impact of technology on retail strategies. From continuous innovation to tackling return logistics and embracing omnichannel growth, retailers are leveraging technology to stay agile, enhance customer experiences, and thrive in a rapidly evolving market.


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