8 Retail Conferences Worth Attending in 2017

Retail conferences 2017 | Shopify Retail blog

When it comes to professional development, there’s rarely a substitute for good, old-fashioned networking events. If a retailer is interested in building new skillsets, making connections in their industry, or need some inspiration or ideas, it’s worth it to invest in your own professional development to help move your business forward.

More businesses are seeing the value in professional development opportunities. According to a report from Bersin by Deloitte, overall spending on learning and development rose 10% in 2014, to more than $1,000 per employee. And one of the crucial ways entrepreneurs can gain new knowledge is to attend industry conferences.

For those looking to broaden their retail business horizons, conferences are a great opportunity to learn from experienced speakers, connect with fellow retail businesspeople, and check out the products and services that could shape the future of your business. Luckily, there are plenty of worthwhile retail conferences in the U.S., Canada, and around the world that are hosted throughout the year.

Not sure what conferences and meetups are worth your time and cash? Here’s our roundup of retail conferences you should consider checking out through the rest of 2017 and heading into 2018.

Internet Retailer Conference + Exhibit

Where: Chicago, Illinois
When: June 6-9, 2017

An exhibit, conference, and tradeshow all in one, the Internet Retailer Conference + Exhibit covers all things retail. This Chicago-based conference features more than 200 speakers and over 130 conference sessions to attend. Learn about ecommerce, online retail strategy, as well as insight into what’s going on in the industry and with the biggest trendsetters.

“The exhibit hall at IRCE features nearly 600 vendors and covers over 250,000 square feet of space – making it the largest e-commerce trade show in the industry. Filled with the latest ecommerce technologies and top solution providers, at IRCE you will uncover vendors that will benefit your company and drive your online strategy forward,” according to the event’s website.

Don’t forget to check out exhibits on marketing, fulfillment, and tech to solve your retail problems, drive sales, and build your retail business.

With four full days of events, you might be wondering what to check out at the Internet Retailer Conference + Exhibit. Noteworthy speakers include Shark Investor Barbara Corcoran, Under Armour VP of Ecommerce George Hanson, and Sephora Senior Vice President Mary Beth Laughton.

NRF Protect

Where: Washington, D.C.
When: June 28-28, 2017

When it comes to curbing theft, the National Retail Federation’s Protect event is the place for retailers to get the lowdown. With more than 2,500 attendees expected, 200 exhibitors, and more than 90 speakers lined up, this is the ideal event for those retailers who want to beef up their loss prevention program.

Speakers include loss prevention experts from Amazon, American Eagle Outfitters, and Williams-Sonoma.

Online Retailer

Online Retailer, retail conferences 2017 | Shopify Retail blog

Where: Sydney, Australia
When: July 26-27, 2017

As far as international conferences go, you should consider looking at the Online Retailer conference in Sydney, Australia. This two-day event is hailed as “Australia’s original, largest, and most established exhibition and conference for technology-led retailers and retail enablers. It showcases solution providers that enable the full spectrum of ecommerce and retail technology, curated conference content, local and international speakers, high level networking and industry celebration of technology led retail best practice.”

Speakers to check out include Indochino CEO Drew Green, The Body Shop Ecommerce Director Heath Tully, and The Sol Group’s Amy McWaters.

Independent Retailer Conference

Where: Las Vegas, Nevada
When: July 30-August 2, 2017

The Independent Retailer Conference is designed specifically for small, independent retailers. “The Independent Retailer Conference is a ‘pop up conference’ within a trade show experience dedicated entirely to the unique lifestyle and responsibilities of indie store owners with a focus on delivering in-store and ecommerce operational insight and expertise that can help independent merchants further succeed in their retail goals.”

Tailored for independent retailers, the Independent Retailer Conference was co-started by Nicole Leinbach Reyhle — founder of Retail Minded, a retail publication to help educate and support retail businesses. The conference is also co-founded by Kerry Bannigan, “a trailblazing entrepreneur building pioneering events and initiatives in fashion and retail to drive economic change, impact small business and spearhead social good.”

The Independent Retailer Conference is perfect for small retail businesses looking for custom, one-of-a-kind solutions and indie-style strategy ideas.

International Retail Design Conference

International Retail Design Conference, retail conference 2017 | Shopify Retail blog

Where: New Orleans, Louisiana
When: September 5-8, 2017

If you’re looking for help with your retail design, then head to New Orleans for the International Retail Design Conference this fall. This colorful conference is described as: “Presented annually by VMSD, this one-of-a-kind conference is three days of design dialogue centered on best practices, evolving trends and fresh strategies for engaging shoppers and maximizing resources, and is recognized as the premier educational and networking event for the store design and visual merchandising community.”

Not just for designers, the IRDC is ideal for anyone involved in creative development, store planning, and marketing. If you do attend, be sure to check out presentations from Whole Foods Senior Design Coordinator Gabrielle Rosi, and Leesa Sleep co-founder and CEO David Wolfe.


Where: Los Angeles, California
When: September 25-27, 2017

Shop.org is an annual ecommerce conference held in LA. this three-day event hosts speaker events, exhibits, and labs to help you reinvent your retail business. Organizers claim: “This is your opportunity to connect with the industry’s best, and learn the trends, techniques and technologies to improve ROI and increase profitability. If you’re in retail e-commerce, and you want to have an immediate positive effect on your company’s bottom line — you’ve got to be there.”

Be sure to attend speaker events from Director of Wayfair Next Mike Festa, GOOP Head Merchant Blair Lawson, and Staples CTO Faisal Masud. Plus, the unique Podcast Studio will house discussions on how retail and technology can work together for the future of your business.

Retail West

Where: Vancouver, Canada
When: October 12, 2017

North of the border, the Retail West conference in Vancouver, B.C. is Canada’s premier retail event. It includes speakers from some of Canada’s largest retail companies — including Purdys Chocolatier, Best Buy Canada, KPMG, lululemon, and MEC.

What will attendees learn at Retail West? “Retail West shares innovative ideas, real-life case studies and trends, providing tools and resources specific to the Western Canadian retail market.” Attend informative presentations, including “Make It Personal: Customer Engagement and the Retail Experience,” “Move Over Millenials: How Gen Z is Shaping the Future of Retail”, and “Retail Branding through Authenticity”.

Full of real-life case study examples, upcoming retail trends to keep an eye on, and cutting-edge tools to adopt — the Retail West conference is an opportunity for all North-West retail businesses to broaden their horizons and develop their strategy to build their retail business.

BONUS: Retail’s BIG Show

Where: New York, New York
When: January 15-17, 2018

The National Retail Federation’s first show of 2018, aptly titled Retail’s BIG Show, offers attendees a well-rounded overview of many topics that could help them scale their businesses. According to the NRF website, retailers who attend can expect a “one-stop shop conference for everything retail. It covers every aspect of running and growing a store — from marketing and brand management, to merchandising, mobile retailing, store experience and more.”

Spanning three days, the conference covers topics like store transformations, customer experience, and examples of radical retail. And with 300 expert speakers to learn from, everyone is likely to find a pearl of wisdom to take home to their own businesses.

What Retail Conferences Will You Be Attending?

With lots of engaging retail conferences to consider attending, let us know if we’ve missed a must-see retail conference or exhibition. Share your personal favorites in the comments below.