By Arriana McLymore and Danielle Kaye
NEW YORK, NY (Reuters) – Target Corp and IT software company SAS are among major companies pulling out of what is billed as the retail industry’s biggest annual trade show, due to start at Javits on Sunday. Center of New York.
Target, which had planned at least five executives to attend, said it had reduced team travel and its executives, including Target Foundation President Amanda Nusz, would now hold virtual sessions. SAS, which has sponsored at least eight sessions, announced on Twitter that it was also participating virtually.
As the Omicron variant of COVID-19 tears up in New York, the National Retail Federation’s (NRF) Big Show is the latest major convention to advance plans that could lead to a potential superspreader event.
At last week’s Consumer Electronics Show (CES), nearly 70 attendees, including some Samsung executives, tested positive for the virus. It was unclear if they contracted the virus while at the convention.
A Twitter user said he canceled his NRF plans after contracting COVID-19 at the consumer electronics event.
The NRF is asking conference attendees to show proof of vaccination and wear masks. N95 and KN95 masks will be distributed along with rapid COVID-19 tests.
“As we move from pandemic to endemic – a new environment in which we say life can and must go on – there will be friction as we adapt. This year’s show is a step forward , and we believe it is necessary and meaningful,” NRF CEO Matthew Shay said in a post on LinkedIn.
Executives from Walmart, Chewy, Best Buy and cloud-based retail platform NewStore are pushing ahead with plans to attend the 15,000-person retail show.
NewStore hosts a booth but recalls external activities for the retail show, according to marketing director Phil Granof. The company is canceling networking dinners, one-on-one meetings and halving the number of employees at the conference to 20 from 40 in previous years.
Granof said as larger companies pull back, there’s less competition for attention. Yet big companies aren’t the only ones canceling their plans. Gaming platform Unity said it dropped out “after considering the number of current cases and the comfort level of employees and vendors.”
“I canceled my plans last week. I missed it two years in a row after 15 years. [This year] would have been my 17th,” ShiSh Shridhar, Microsoft’s global head of retail for startups, tweeted.
NRF released its updated COVID protocols in December, ensuring the conference had the green light to continue with a planned 25,000 attendees and 900 exhibitors. On January 12, the NRF said there were 15,000 confirmed participants and 750 vendors.
“The irony, of course, is that as attendance drops, the conference becomes safer,” Granof said.
(Reporting by Arriana McLymore and Danielle Kaye; Editing by David Gregorio)
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