National Retail Federation (NRF)

The biggest retail trade foundation in the world

What is the National Retail Federation (NRF)?

The National Retail Federation (NRF) is the world’s biggest retail trade foundation, with over 3.8 million retail establishments as members. Headquartered in Washington, D.C., the NRF represents the largest private-sector industry in the United States and supports over 52 million employees.

National Retail Federation


  • The National Retail Federation (NRF) is the world’s biggest retail trade foundation with over 3.8 million retail establishments as members. The NRF offers membership to retailers, industry partners, universities, and students.
  • One of the NRF’s main objectives is to represent and advocate for the retail industry through lobbying politicians and spreading awareness of the importance of the retail industry.
  • One of the NRF’s best-known events is its Annual Convention and EXPO, commonly referred to as Retail’s BIG Show. Held in New York City, it draws over 40,000 attendees and 800 exhibitors from all over the world each year.

What Does the National Retail Foundation Do?

The National Retail Foundation is responsible for representing companies in the retail sector.  They include department stores, specialty, discount, catalog, internet, and independent retailers, marketing companies, chain restaurants, grocery stores, and businesses that provide goods and services to retailers, such as vendors and technology providers. The NRF offers memberships to retailers, industry partners, and universities and students. It distributes retail-focused publications as well.

The NRF also acts as an umbrella group for smaller retail associations at the state, national, and international levels. It holds an annual convention – known as Retail’s BIG Show, or the NRF Annual Convention & EXPO – over three days in New York City, which draws over 37,000 retail professionals and companies from around the world.

Purpose of the National Retail Foundation

The National Retail Association’s two main objectives are as follows. The first is to represent the retail sector and stand up for the people, policies, and ideas in the industry. In such a manner, the NRF is one of the most prominent advocates for the retail industry and plays an important part in lobbying politicians and government officials in Washington.

In particular, issues of importance to the NRF in recent years include data security to protect sensitive consumer information, tax reform, and labor relations concerning management-workforce disputes.

The second goal is to educate and inspire others about the retail industry, which is done through the NRF’s philanthropic arm, the NRF Foundation.

History and Structure of the NRF

The National Retail Federation was founded in 1911 as the National Retail Dry Goods Association (NRDGA). The association held the first annual meeting of its members that year, holding one every year since. The NRDGA was renamed the National Retail Merchants Association in 1958 and merged with the American Retail Federation to form the present National Retail Federation.

The NRF is headed by a CEO and its staff, who are in charge of the day-to-day operations of the association – with areas such as finance, communications and public affairs, conferences, education strategy, government relations, information technology, marketing, research, and member relations.

The NRF is also governed by an Executive Committee and a Board of Directors, which are made up of CEOs and executives of large retail firms in the United States.

NRF Annual Convention & EXPO – Retail’s BIG Show

The NRF Annual Convention & EXPO, known as Retail’s BIG Show, is a three-day conference held every year in New York City. It is continuously expanding, and in 2020, the conference included over 800 exhibitors, 300 speakers, and 200 education sessions, drawing in over 40,000 attendees.

The conference is one of the main revenue sources for the NRF, and it allows its attendees to get a better understanding of the innovations and solutions that the retail industry must offer to tackle challenges. With the rise of technological innovation in recent years, topics such as machine learning and omnichannel supply chain management are becoming more common at the conference.

Retail’s BIG Show is frequently ranked as among the Top 200 events in North America, as well as one of the rapidly growing trade events.

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