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Retail's BIG Show 2013 preview: Retail giants, expanded EXPO and a world peacekeeper

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Every January for the past 102 years, retailers have gathered in New York City. Following a busy holiday season, Retail's BIG Show, held January 13 to 16 in New York, is the place to kick-start the year, strengthen partnerships, amp up business plans and find new solutions for the coming year. For NRF, it's the main event. And as the industry grows and advances, so does the BIG Show. Here's a preview of some of the new things you'll find at Retail's BIG Show '13.

The EXPO - Level 3 at Retail's BIG Show 2012. 

More EXPO More than 450 solution providers will be on the EXPO floor demonstrating new technology, offering solutions and networking with retailers at Retail's BIG Show, but this year, attendees will have two halls to browse instead of one. The EXPO and everything that happens in it—EXPO stage sessions, networking receptions, BIG !deas sessions—are always free for retailers.

More networking receptions To kick off the event and preview the brand new expanded EXPO, we're opening on Sunday, January 13 for an EXPO preview reception where you can enjoy a few drinks and start the BIG Show off right.

More keynotes We've added a keynote session, plus a luncheon keynote on Sunday, for a total of nine keynote sessions. Some of corporate America's most influential business leaders will take the keynote stage this year, including:

NRF President and CEO Matt Shay kicks off Retail's BIG Show 2012.

For a broader world view, we'll welcome Kofi Annan, former Secretary-General of the United Nations and Nobel Peace Prize winner, to the stage to share his fascinating experiences working for peace and prosperity across the world.

More specialty programming Nobody is better at driving the economy, reviving neighborhoods, creating jobs and boosting communities across America than retailers on Main Street. This year's Main Street Retailing Forum is a one-day program sponsored by American Express designed to give small business retailers specific strategies and tactics to help grow their business. After the success of last year's First Look track, the team has an all-star line-up in 2013, offering two-and-a-half days of First Look content on all things digital, including insights from leaders in mobile, social, local and more.

More flexibility for store tours Store tours are always a popular, sold-out event at the BIG Show. This year, we've improved the format, making the tours self-guided, so you can go at your own pace. With a walking map and audio guide that explains concepts of design, technology and customer experience enhancements, you can go behind the scenes of some of New York's landmark retailers and innovative new stores.

More member perks Being a member has its benefits! The NRF Members Coca-Cola Happiness Lounge is a new place where NRF, and ARTS members can escape the hustle and bustle of the show floor, check in with the office, charge smartphones, chat with other members or simply relax. Members can also take advantage of the food stands in this area to avoid long lines in the Convention Center food court.

More registration stations and flexible hours This year, we'll have satellite registration in two of our official event hotels – the Marriott Marquis and Sheraton New York & Towers. Check in right at your hotel, so you can skip waiting in line at the Convention Center. Want to stay up to date with all this year's BIG Show developments? Check the Retail's BIG Show site frequently for updates or follow @RetailsBIGShow on Twitter.