Shoptalk Cancels Conference Set for 2021 Over Pandemic

Shoptalk won’t be reconvening in-person for a while still.

The annual retail conference, which typically occurs in Las Vegas in spring, said it’s decided to cancel its 2021 conference given the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. Shoptalk also canceled its conference last year, although the company insisted at the time that it was merely being postponed. Now the reality of the pandemic, currently reaching new heights in the U.S., and its effects stretching over more than year has hit.

Large gatherings, like those at conferences and concerts and even outdoor shopping events, were spotted early on in the pandemic as major sources of virus spread. Gatherings of people numbering over 100, give or take a few dozen, have been banned in most states since March.

It’s had a deleterious effect on the scores of companies that operate conferences like Shoptalk, along with media companies that had grown accustomed to revenue from live events, p.r. firms that did a lot of business on such events and even the city of Las Vegas. The city in the last 10 years has intentionally built itself out as a major hub for conferences of all sorts, but this year, all were canceled. Major events like Coachella, South x Southwest and even the 2020 Olympics in Japan were canceled this year due to the pandemic.

Shoptalk is already scheduled to hold its next in-person conference in Las Vegas at the end of March 2022, when a vaccine for the coronavirus should be well distributed and accessible. As of now, emergency distribution of vaccines is expected in the coming weeks, but will go directly to health-care workers. By many estimates, the general public will not have access to the vaccine until next summer.

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So instead of an in-person gathering this year, Shoptalk will be holding virtual “meet ups” for people in retail. One in March for the grocery industry, one in May for women in retail and another in October that will go across industries. Shoptalk did the same this year in October after canceling its live events.

The company said the meetings were successful, with more than 2,000 people from 1,000 companies joining and holding 20,000-plus individual meetings. Of participants who responded to a survey, 92 percent said they were satisfied with the format.

Anil Aggarwal, who founded the event, called the meetups a “tremendous success” and said they will be a permanent part of Shoptalk when it goes back to a live event in 2022.

“We’re now omnichannel, just like retail,” Aggarwal said, “so organizations and individuals throughout the retail, grocery and [consumer packaged goods] industries can utilize both our online and off-line events to meet with their customers, partners, prospects, colleagues and friends throughout the year, every year.”

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