NRF Big Show

Making it to the Big Show

17 UofSC students spent part of their winter break at the country's largest retail convention: the NRF Big Show in New York City.

The National Retail Federation (NRF) Big Show in New York City is the largest retail conference in the United States, and this year it included the biggest group of Gamecocks yet.

The University of South Carolina contingent for the annual show included 17 students from the College of Hospitality, Retail and Sport Management (HRSM), three of whom earned NRF scholarships for the trip. They were joined by faculty from UofSC’s Department of Retailing as well as career and corporate engagement officers.

“Executives from all the major retailers in the U.S. take the time to speak with attendees and give you their candid thoughts."

-Allison Lausch, UofSC student

The students toured leading retail facilities and attended lectures and panel discussions with giants of the industry, including Kohl’s, Macy’s, Nordstrom, Walmart, Amazon, Nike and many more. They also heard from successful business owners who started from scratch and make it to the top.

“Each speaker had an amazing story, background, and tons of advice to share with students like myself,” says Sydney Berhhardt, a UofSC retailing major, NRF scholarship winner and president of the UofSC NRF chapter. “They always stress at these conventions that we are the future of retail. They honestly are right. Technology is constantly changing, stores are evolving, and the industry is growing exponentially.”

The students also took part in the Executive Mentor Experience, an opportunity to engage directly with leaders and executives from some of the most exciting brands in the world.

American Express, Ashley Stewart, B&N Industries, Bed, Bath & Beyond, BJ's Wholesale Club, Brooks Brothers, CallisonRTKL, Carnival Cruise Line and Chanel USA were just a few of the companies who sent their top people to share their experience and network with future leaders.

The students also had an extra mentor, UofSC retailing alumna Sara Wingate Bako, now vice president at Cupio and Cupio Blush. Bako took the group behind the scenes and gave them a firsthand look at the type of career they can build with a degree from South Carolina.

“The whole weekend is focused on how to develop and apply our skills to the real-world industry, from a student’s perspective, with speakers being influential people in retailing,” says Allison Lausch, retailing major, vice president of the UofSC NRF chapter and NRF scholarship winner. “Executives from all the major retailers in the U.S. take the time to speak with attendees and give you their candid thoughts. These are companies that I only had a connection to because of the NRF Student Program.”

Lausch, Bernhardt and fellow HRSM student Shakeyma Irving all won $1,500 NRF scholarships leading up to the conference. The students were nominated for the awards by retailing instructor Daniela Jankovska for their work with the campus chapter.

Lausch was also named a semifinalist for a $25,000 NRF Next Generation scholarship, one of just 25 semifinalists chosen from a large pool of applicants nationwide.

Students interested in joining the UofSC NRF chapter may contact the club’s faculty adviser Jankovska at

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