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Retail industry leaders return (IRL!) for the 21st annual IRDC September 21–22 in Denver.

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THE INTERNATIONAL RETAIL DESIGN Conference (IRDC) presented by VMSD magazine turns 21 this year. The annual creative-spark-inducing and networking event dedicated to retail industry professionals – everyone from visual merchandisers and store planners to retail executives and designers — is celebrating this milestone with a packed agenda of breakout and general sessions, interactive workshops, roundtable discussions and (of course) spirited socials spanning two days in downtown Denver. This year’s home base is the Sheraton Denver Downtown Hotel, located on the mile-long, retail- and restaurant-lined 16th Street Mall promenade, designed by Chinese-American architect I.M. Pei. (The pedestrian promenade is one of the many stops on the Lower Downtown self-guided Retail Inspiration Walking Tour on Tuesday, Sept. 21 — other tours include the River North Art District and the boho South Broadway neighborhood.)

On the programming lineup, expect a slew of sessions centered around the theme “Rethink Retail,” including the opening keynote Tuesday, Sept. 21, from digital anthropologist and futurist Brian Solis. Breakout sessions throughout the event will focus on everything from how Walmart transformed itself into a mobile-first shopping destination to the future of restaurant design to how brands are pivoting in this post-pandemic environment to meet consumer demands. On Wednesday, Sept. 22, Toni Roeller, SVP of In-Store Environment at Dick’s Sporting Goods (Coraopolis, Pa.), will sit for an off-the-cuff conversation with VMSD Editor-in-Chief/Associate Publisher and IRDC Conference Chair Jennifer Acevedo on how experiential design is driving the future of physical retail. Speaker Zach Duenow, Global Director Brand Building + Creative Excellence at British pharmaceutical company GlaxoSmithKline, will deliver the closing keynote on “Uncovering New Perspectives: Designing with the Addicted Mind.”

As usual, networking opportunities abound at IRDC, including roundtable lunches, breakfasts and receptions. Sip a cocktail and spectate (or join in on the fun) during the annual Iron Merchant Challenge, wherein six teams go glue gun to glue gun to create a winning visual display using a mannequin, random materials and one secret ingredient. And let all your conference learnings soak in during this year’s closing reception, located at one of Denver’s most eclectic eateries, Ace Eat Serve, which features Asian fusion cuisine amid a hall of ping pong tables.

While you’re in town, don’t forget to explore the host city. Set off during one of the three self-guided walking tours or take a little time to traverse its many developments of note, such as Milk Market, Denver Central Market and Union Station. “Denver proper is a story of its neighborhoods,” says Harry Spetnagel, Brand Design Director and Senior Associate at Gensler’s Denver office. “With recent growth and gentrification has come an eclectic mix of pocket retail developments, bringing renewed vibrancy and energy to legacy neighborhoods.”

For more information on IRDC, visit irdconline.com. See you this September!

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