After an enriching three-day event filled with educational sessions and networking opportunities, the National Retail Federation’s (NRF) Foundation Student Program 2024 concluded at the Marriott Marquis in Times Square, New York, US.

A diverse gathering of 1,125 students, 145 educators, 112 mentors, 40 speakers, and more than 150 recruiters participated in the programme, which saw sponsorship from 34 companies.

Retail leaders share wisdom

The programme commenced with a dynamic schedule featuring prominent figures in the retail industry, sharing their insights with the next generation of talent.

The sessions explored crucial themes such as authenticity, agility, flexibility, and grit.

Notable figures such as Julie Averill, CTO at lululemon, and Libby Edelman provided invaluable advice to students, emphasising self-trust, creativity, and the importance of staying true to oneself in their respective career journeys.

Navigating AI in job applications explored by experts

In a timely discussion on ‘Landing a Job in the Age of AI,’ industry leaders, including Paradox VP Josh Secrest, Nordstrom‘s Vicky Hidalgo, and 7-Eleven‘s Ashley Carter delved into the impact of artificial intelligence on the hiring process.

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The conversation included tips on accounting for AI tools when applying for jobs, recognising AI-generated responses, and the challenge students face in keeping pace with rapidly evolving technologies during recruitment.

Emphasising authenticity, the experts encouraged students to showcase their genuine selves during interviews, cautioning against reliance on AI-generated scripts.

Agility in retail explored by PetSmart chief merchandising officer

Kristin Shane, chief merchandising officer at PetSmart, took to the keynote stage to discuss the secrets of successful merchandising and the importance of agility in an ever-changing industry.

Shane shared insights into PetSmart’s merchandising strategy, highlighting the significance of adaptability in the face of digital innovation and evolving customer preferences.

Urging students to be agile and willing to make changes, Shane emphasised the ability to pivot, follow customer trends, and embrace experimentation in order to succeed in the retail landscape.

The NRF Foundation Student Program concluded with the NRF Foundation Honors, recognising retail professionals making significant contributions to innovation.

The event also celebrated rising stars in the industry, including the recipient of the Next Generation Scholarship prize being awarded $25,000 and the top team in the University Challenge receiving $30,000.

The honours also acknowledged industry visionaries, with Dick’s Sporting Goods executive chair Ed Stack named The Visionary 2024 and Dublin City Schools honoured as the RISE Up Partner of the Year.