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Bull’s-Eye on Retail

The 23rd annual International Retail Design Conference sets up shop this month in Minneapolis, home to powerhouse brands Target and Best Buy — as well as the monstrous Mall of America




Bull’s-Eye on Retail There’s still time to register for IRDC 2023! Scan the QR code or visit

EXPECT A VISUAL FEAST this October 25-26 as the International Retail Design Conference (IRDC) lands in Minneapolis, the largest city in Minnesota, and one with no shortage of scenic prowess, thanks to its plentiful wetlands, waterfalls, creeks, parks and more. As for retail prowess, it’s got that in spades, too. Major brands headquartered in the City of Lakes include Target, Best Buy and General Mills, alongside the sizable Mall of America – the largest shopping mall in the U.S. at 5.6 million square feet – in nearby Bloomington, Minn. Attendees to this year’s premier educational and networking event, presented annually by VMSD magazine, have the opportunity to experience all that and more, with a packed two-day agenda offering a slew of inspiring keynotes, interactive workshops, networking cocktail parties, riveting roundtable discussions and a mix of guided and self-guided retail tours – based at host hotel the Marriott City Center.

Bull’s-Eye on Retail

Kicking off day one on Wednesday, Oct. 25, is Lizzie Velasquez, global motivational speaker and anti-bullying activist. In her opening keynote, she’ll discuss her passion for kindness, communication and connection.

Bull’s-Eye on RetailABOVE: Minneapolis is home to major retailers and brands like Target, General Mills and Best Buy, with Mall of America only a short distance away.

Then, prepare to break a few rules with Judy Bell, Founder and CEO at Energetic Retail (Minneapolis), as she leads the interactive workshop “Messy Creativity,” wherein teams will answer questions via a series of words and sketches to challenge their creative process and investigate imaginative wisdom. A little sneak peek from Bell: “I hope that everyone leaves with a little taste of the ‘Kingdom of Oz’ in their pocket.” Other notable speakers during the first day include Albert Gilkey, SVP, Store Design and Construction of Victoria’s Secret, Linda Cahan, longtime industry consultant and owner of Cahan & Co., M&M’S alongside Landor + Fitch, as well as Target.


Bull’s-Eye on RetailTHIS IMAGE: Five stories tall and 160 feet across, this Bob Dylan mural by Eduardo Kobra is one of many commissioned public works of art throughout the city. 📷 Bill Hickey/Courtesy of Meet Minneapolis

Don’t miss the Offsite Retail Inspiration Tours later that afternoon, which include a guided tour of Target’s downtown Nicollet Street flagship, a 90-minute peek behind the curtain at Mall Of America (open to retailers, visual merchandiser and designers only), and a self-guided excursion through the vibrant North Loop neighborhood, where you can explore local retail such as the 22,000-square-foot interior design and men’s apparel haven MartinPatrick3, coffee shops, breweries and more.

Bull’s-Eye on Retail

Closing Party: The Pourhouse

Following the closing keynote presentation, attendees can officially conclude IRDC 2023 with an offsite party Oct. 27 at the Pourhouse, located at South 5th St. in the historic Lumber Exchange Building. Featuring drinks, food, dancing, networking and much more, The Pourhouse is only a short walk from the host hotel; its brick and dark wood interior combines prohibition-era design with the cozy Midwest feeling of Minneapolis. Celebrate IRDC 2023 with us in the heart of downtown!


Bull’s-Eye on Retail

That evening, carouse with fellow attendees during the always rousing Iron Merchant Challenge, with a pre-Iron Merchant cocktail reception sponsored by Target. During the Challenge, witness (or join in on the fun) six teams make a mad dash for props and decorative elements to create a faux window display in an hour during the 17th annual Iron Merchant Challenge. The catch? Each team must use the secret ingredient, unveiled on-site at the start of the Challenge.


Thursday, Oct. 26, promises two forward-thinking general sessions. First up, Sarah Quinlan, Chief Economist at New York-based financial services advisory and investment platform The Consello Group, will explore the evolution of the retail economy and discuss what businesses should be doing differently today to succeed and thrive. Then after the VMSD Awards Luncheon, during which the 2023 Retailer of the Year will be recognized, hear Samar Younes, Founder and Chief Imagination Officer at New York-based creative atelier Samaritual, talk about artificial intelligence (AI) and the pivotal role it will play in the future of retail design. There are many more speakers to explore for this year’s conference, so check out the agenda via

No IRDC is complete without the closing party, and this year, it’s located at The Pourhouse, a prohibition-themed spot inside downtown’s historic Lumber Exchange Building, the oldest high-rise in the city.

See you in Minneapolis!


Bull’s-Eye on Retail

Offsite Retail Inspiration Tours

Sponsored by KNOCK Inc., this year’s Offsite Retail Inspiration Tours feature three immersive options for IRDC 2023 attendees to choose from:

  • TARGET NICOLLET FLAGSHIP: Just a few skywalks away from the host hotel, this exclusive guided tour of Target’s downtown Nicollet Street flagship will give attendees some much-needed inspiration. After an in-depth exploration of the store, attendees will be guided to Target’s headquarters building just blocks from the hotel.
  • MALL OF AMERICA: Hosted by Chandler, this VIP tour is open to retailers, visual merchandisers and designers only. This exclusive behind-the-scenes tour will look at how Mall of America and Nickelodeon Universe amusement park work – plus you’ll discover countless details that only insiders know, exciting previews of what’s to come and anecdotes from over the decades. Attendees should plan to wear comfortable shoes and be ready to move!
  • THE NORTH LOOP: Hosted by the Twin Cities Chapter of the Retail Design Institute, this self-guided excursion will allow attendees to explore the North Loop neighborhood at their own pace and visit a plethora of independent retailers, restaurants and breweries in the area. A handy on-site guide will provide insight into the various things to see in the area.

Visit for more details.

📷 Bill Hickey/Courtesy of Meet Minneapolis




MasterClass: ‘Re-Sparkling’ Retail: Using Store Design to Build Trust, Faith and Brand Loyalty

HOW CAN WE EMPOWER and inspire senior leaders to see design as an investment for future retail growth? This session, led by retail design expert Ian Johnston from Quinine Design, explores how physical stores remain unmatched in the ability to build trust, faith, and loyalty with your customers, ultimately driving shareholder value.

Presented by:
Ian Johnston
Founder and Creative Director, Quinine Design

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