Many of the themes at NRF are familiar to most – omnichannel is everywhere, international expansion is the holy grail, shrinking store estates and the effects on the high street are on retailers’ minds.

Many of the themes at NRF are familiar to most – omnichannel is everywhere, international expansion is the holy grail, shrinking store estates and the effects on the high street are on retailers’ minds.

There is always plenty of rhetoric, but the most interesting part is often in the detail. Plenty of people, for instance, have been talking about big data, but few have concrete examples – this year, Macys.com has discussed the extensive work it is doing on analytics and business intelligence. As one of the first multichannel retailers to invest heavily in data-driven retailing, the next few years will bring some fascinating insight into how customers interact across the channels with brands. The complexity of the project, however, shows how much retailers still have to learn when it comes to knowing exactly what the multichannel shopper responds to.

Macy’s might be one of the first multichannel operators to build its own analytics capability, but Amazon has, of course, been doing that for years – and retail’s current grand high priest, Jeff Bezos, made a rare appearance to pick up an award. His short but interesting speech highlighted the role of luck in retailing, and being in the right place at the right time – he said: “We at Amazon have had incredible planetary alignment for this to have happened. There’s been a tremendous amount of luck and a lot of great timing.”

There’s also a strong political theme, at least at the keynotes where many of the big names like to air their grievances – Starbucks chief executive Howard Schultz was particularly outspoken, prompting a member of the audience to ask if he was planning to run for office. Faltering consumer confidence is a worry for retailers on both sides of the Atlantic, and Schultz probably isn’t the only retailer to want more leadership from government.

The sheer scale of the conference means it’s difficult to do it justice – from the latest technical wizardry to political bugbears, it reflects how diverse the industry is.