Join VMSD this fall in Denver for the annual International Retail Design Conference to celebrate our 21st anniversary!

September 21-22, 2021 | Denver, Colorado

2021 IRDC Agenda

7:00 AM8:00 AM
Conference Registration
Foyer 1h 00min

8:00 AM9:00 AM
Networking Breakfast
Ballroom 1h 00min

9:00 AM9:45 AM
Opening Keynote: Retailers as Experience Designers: The Future of Retail
Ballroom 0h 45min

What will the year 2030 bring the retail industry? The need to create an extraordinarily deep and meaningful customer experience.

For almost 30 years, Brian has studied and influenced the effects of emerging technology on business and society. A world-renowned digital anthropologist and futurist, author, sought-after social media influencer and keynote speaker, and currently a Global Innovation Evangelist at Salesforce, he’s helped organizations worldwide understand and leverage innovation to create meaningful connections with customers, peers, and society at large.

In this must-see keynote, Brian’s eye-opening insights and guidance about the emerging customer experience economy will transform how you approach retail design.

Brian Solis, Digital Anthropologist, Futurist and Global Innovation Evangelist, Salesforce

10:15 AM10:45 AM
Mobile is the New Physical
Breakout Session 0h 30min

How Walmart’s development of “Swipe Up,” a mobile-first messaging system, allowed the brand to transform and disrupt the industry by becoming more than a physical store but a mobile-first shopping destination.

Carly Shelby, Senior Manager, Marketing – Store Design, Innovation & Experience, Walmart
David Sheehan, Senior Strategist, Experience, Landor + Fitch

10:15 AM10:45 AM
Panel Discussion: Eco-Feminism and the Fluid Future of Consumption
Breakout session 0h 30min

Historically, research shows that gender identity influences consumers’ considerations towards sustainable consumption, placing women at the forefront of conscious consumerism. However, Gen Z and Millennials are blurring identity lines, creating a more fluid future with sustainability and social equity at the core of their ethics and purchasing behaviors. This expert panel will discuss the evolution of sustainable consumerism and the role feminism and their critical role in designing retail environments of the future. A cultural brailing exercise conducted via a real-time app will lend an aspect of interactivity to this fascinating discussion.

Gabby Rosi, Chief Retail Maven & Founder, The Gabby Collective (formerly of Whole Foods Market)

Doug Schmidt, Retail Consultant, (previously of REI and Yeti)
Sheri Blattel, Associate Principal, Director of Retail, Cushing Terrell
Rebekah Matheny, Associate Professor of Interior Design, The Ohio State University
Royce Epstein, Design Director, Trend Forecaster and Founder, Dissent by Design

11:00 AM11:30 AM
Pivoting to Meet New Consumer Demands: Creating a Brand Extension
Breakout Session 0h 30min

Post-pandemic, brands will see a rapid shift in the way consumers engage as a new economy emerges. The connected economy, an economy that places more value in meaningful experiences with a focus on authentic human connection, supported by revolutionary new technology that allows consumers greater access than ever before. How will this shift change future behavior, and will your brand be ready? Find out how the most successful brands are pivoting to meet new consumer demands and leveraging brand extensions as a significant element of that transition and strategy using consumer insights, new platforms and the built environment.

Emily Hamilton, VP, Brand Strategy & Marketing, NELSON Worldwide
Aaron Ruef, Account Director, NELSON Worldwide

11:00 AM11:30 AM
The Social Experience – Influencers’ Role in Creating Popular Retail Engagements
Breakout session 0h 30min

Retail brands and developers are increasingly turning to social media influencers of all kinds: lifestyle influencers, kidfluencers, gaming influencers, virtual influencers as well as social events for marketing and brand launch opportunities. This strategy of tapping into core human interactive needs tends to result in higher-than-average sales returns by leveraging storytelling and environment styling, offering retailers a smart way to drive sales and product exploration at a time when in-person connections have been impacted by Covid. Moderator and VMSD columnist Brian Dyches will lead an engaging discussion with Michelle M. Collins of A Non-Agency, who will share her new concept, Brand Closet Showroom Social, and Kyle Hjelmeseth of G+B Digital Management, one of the most active digital talent management agencies for influencers.

Brian Dyches, Principle & Founder, Ensemble Business Group

Michelle M. Collins, Founder & President, A Non-Agency
Kyle Hjelmeseth, President, G+B Digital Management

12:00 PM1:15 PM
Roundtable Lunch
Ballrooom 1h 15min

1:30 PM2:15 PM
Rethink Retail Therapy: Designing Healthy Spaces
General session 0h 45min

It’s no secret that the environment that surrounds us has a profound effect on our mood state. As retail designers, we are skilled at designing elements of the store environment to encourage certain behaviors or perceptions. The notion of salutogenic design takes that idea one step further, studying the effect the built environment can have on our health and wellbeing. Already well-established in adjacent industries like healthcare and hospitality, this panel discussion led by Bevan Bloemendaal, former VP Global Environments & Creative Services, Timberland will explore the use of restorative elements like biophilia, lighting, scent and materiality to have a positive influence on the human experience and consumers’ health and wellness, a potentially critical differentiator for retailers in our post-pandemic world.

Moderator: Bevan Bloemendaal, former VP Global Environments & Creative Services, Timberland

Carolyn Rickard-Brideau, Partner/Corporate President, Little
Bill Browning, Partner, Terrapin Bright Green

2:30 PM5:00 PM
Retail Inspiration Self-Guided Tour
Off-site 2h 30min

Leave behind the conference room setting for an urban adventure in a city known for its active, outdoor lifestyle and 300 days of sunshine annually. Our Retail Inspiration self-guided tours detail the coolest cultural spots, most engaging local stores and breathtaking architecture in three of Denver’s most vibrant neighborhoods

6:00 PM8:00 PM
Iron Merchant Competition + Reception
Ballroom 2h 00min

The annual Iron Merchant Challenge is a mashup of improvisation, creativity and design science – plus one secret ingredient guaranteed to shake things up!

Together, six teams will dive in blindly to conceive and create a winning display focused around a theme, a hodgepodge of materials and one secret ingredient. Are you ready for the challenge? Sign up to participate during registration!

Sponsored by Fusion.

7:00 AM8:00 AM
Conference Registration
Foyer 1h 00min

08:00 AM10:00 AM
Sponsor Case Study Breakfast
Ballroom 2h 00min

10:20 AM11:00 AM
When Experience is a Game Changer
General Session 0h 40min

A fireside chat with Toni Roeller, SVP of In-Store Environment, DICK’S Sporting Goods

This engaging, off-the-cuff conversation pairs retail veteran Toni Roeller, SVP of In-Store Environment, at DICK’S Sporting Goods (DSG) with VMSD Editor-in-chief/Associate Publisher Jennifer Acevedo for an in-depth conversation about how experiential design is driving the future of physical retail. Hear how DSG has been a leader in creating immersive, hands-on activations in-store like climbing walls and hitting bays and recently launched two completely new concepts – House of Sport and Public Lands – designed to satisfy shoppers’ desires to explore, test and try the products they’re passionate about.

Speaker: Toni Roeller, SVP of In-Store Environment, DICK’S Sporting Goods
Moderator: Jennifer Acevedo, Editor-in-Chief/Associate Publisher, VMSD

11:00 AM11:20 AM
Networking Break
Foyer 0h 20min

11:25 AM11:55 AM
RED is the New Black: Developing the Next Generation of Retail Experience Design Talent
Breakout Session 0h 30min

Retail is at a crossroads. Are you ready? This session will explore retail design as a formalized career path in an effort to elevate and educate the next generation of retail designers. During the discussion, the facilitators will gather input/ideas from attendees on the current state of the industry, stewardship of talent and the possible implications of recent shifts in consumer behavior. Elements of the discussion will feed the subsequent launch of The Columbus College of Art & Design (CCAD) first-of-its-kind Master of Professional Studies in Retail Design, a program that balances business acumen with innovation and creativity to meet the challenges retailers face today and tomorrow.

Jennifer Schlueter, Dean of Graduate Studies, Columbus College of Art & Design
Chuck Palmer, Senior Advisor, ConsumerX Retail

11:25 AM11:55 AM
What is the Future of Restaurant Design?
Breakout Session 0h 30min

The restaurant and hospitality channels have been charged with reimagining the way in which they meet consumers’ needs in today’s rapidly changing world. Hear best practices from Inspire Brands, the second-largest restaurant company in the U.S., around brand messaging, a new design strategy, and the advantages and efficiencies behind new prototype designs developed for recently rebranded multinational chain Dunkin’. What has the brand learned about “drive-thru-only” design and the importance of green design initiatives?

Andrew Bello, VP of Architecture and Design, Inspire Brands
Jason Marcoulier, Director, Concept Design, Inspire Brands

12:00 PM1:30 PM
Roundtable Lunch with VMSD Awards
Ballroom 1h 30min

1:45 PM2:45 PM
Rethinking Retail: Connecting Through Design Thinking and Storytelling
Interactive Workshops 1h 00min

Sometimes it’s on purpose, and other times by accident, but storytelling is an essential human device, and it is infused in just about everything we do. We use it to entertain, to persuade, to inform, to market. Compelling storytelling can be an enigma, depending on the impact you wish to have. Still, there are foundational design elements for storytelling that can be learned and processed to engage
audiences and leave a lasting impression.

Design processes and storytelling may be used to unwrap critical components such as exchanging knowledge, developing organizational buy-in, cultural sharing, and human interaction. This hands-on, interactive session will engage, involve, and challenge attendees to develop a storytelling and connection plan for their retail space.

Bruce Parsons, Assistant Professor of Design Thinking, Radford University
Holly Cline, Professor of Design Thinking and Department Chair, Radford University

1:45 PM2:45 PM
The Upside of Upheaval: Harnessing Our Potential for Resilience from the Inside Out
Interactive Workshop 1h 00min

We may all be designed for creativity, novelty and change, but when our worlds are turned upside down by complex forces, upheaval activates our innate survival wiring. Over time, chronic stress can begin to require different adaptations and distort our perceptions, siphon our courage and alter our sense of identity and purpose. But, there is an upside to upheaval. As creatures of pattern and rhythm, we’re faced with a potent opportunity for change. Upheaval can push us to relinquish what’s not working, to focus and get clear on what we need, and to harness the power to redefine our purpose.

Join Lu and David for this interactive session to learn how, with greater awareness and curiosity, we can leverage the potential of our untapped resources and lead ourselves – and each other – toward transformative experiences of growth and resilience.

Lu Hanessian, MSc, President, Founder, Integrate Resilience
David Kepron, AIA, LEED, RDI, Founder and Owner, NXTLVL Experience Design

2:45 PM3:00 PM
Networking Break
Foyer 0h 15min

3:05 PM3:40 PM
Panel discussion: Purpose-Driven Design for Community-Based Projects
Breakout Session 0h 35min

Following last year’s global pandemic and social unrest, brands and retailers have become more introspective about their purpose and values in our ever-changing industry. As agencies, we are also cognizant of how our design skills can make an impact on our communities and clients. We know that we can’t change the world alone, but together we can make a difference, one idea at a time. This panel discussion will deliver insightful ideas on how we’ve changed our approaches to project work in our local communities and will explore purpose-driven design and what ROI means in this new world we’re all experiencing for the first time.

Reginaldo Reyes, VP, Brand Experience & Environmental Design, KNOCK Inc.

Jill Renslow, EVP, Marketing and Business Development, Mall of America
Betsy Vohs, Founder and CEO, Studio BV and Design Forward

3:05 PM3:40 PM
The Retail Rumba: Solutions for Specialty Retailers
Breakout Session 0h 35min

Like store design, dance is an art form that requires each partner to work in unison. But it also requires anticipating the moves of others and always being prepared to respond to changes on the fly. Through the lens of data from shoppers across the U.S. surveyed three times in the past year, Declan and Camille offer retailers long-term solutions to current and future challenges so that retailers can take two steps forward. The audience will engage in the discussion through conversation (and maybe even through dance).

Declan McCormack, Retail Client Leader, BHDP Architecture

3:40 PM4:00 PM
Networking Break
Foyer 0h 20min

4:00 PM5:00 PM
Uncovering New Perspectives: Designing with the Addicted Mind
Closing Keynote 1h 00min

With abundant focus on growth and no shortage of diatribes on design, data, digital, etc., far too often, the single most overlooked variable in all marketing and design industry thinking is the most tangible one: people. GSK’s Global Director of Brand Building and Creative Excellence Zach Duenow explores how organizations can become blinded by addictive thought patterns that kept them recycling their awareness of the world and the clues within the 12-step program to sobriety to organizational evolution.

Speaker: Zach Duenow, Global Director Brand Building + Creative Excellence, GSK

6:30 AM8:30 PM
Closing Reception
Ace Eat Serve 2h 00min

Our closing party will take place at one of Denver's most eclectic eateries, Ace Eat Serve, that combines Pan-Asian cuisine, signature cocktails and table tennis...just steps from the host hotel.

VMSD and ZenGenius Inc. Present:


The annual Iron Merchant Challenge is a mashup of improvisation, creativity and design science – plus one secret ingredient guaranteed to shake things up!

Together, six teams will dive in blindly to conceive and create a winning display focused around a theme, a hodgepodge of materials and one secret ingredient. Are you ready for the challenge? Sign up to participate during registration!

Sponsored by Fusion.


Retail Inspiration Walking Tour

Always an audience favorite, leave behind the conference room setting for an urban adventure in a city known for its active, outdoor lifestyle and 300 days of sunshine annually. Our Retail Inspiration self-guided tours detail the coolest cultural spots, most engaging local stores and breathtaking architecture in three of Denver’s most vibrant neighborhoods. If you’re up for the challenge, put on your walking shoes, choose your destination, grab a few friends and head out for adventure. Some of the most interesting corners of this fast-paced, ever-evolving city are just steps away from the Sheraton Denver Downtown hotel.

What Our Visitors Say

Who should attend?

Join the most creative minds in retail in one of America’s most progressive cities.

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Retailers with Experience in:

Visual Merchandising / Presentation / Display Store Design / Environment Retail / Customer Experience Store Planning Brand Management / In-store Marketing Corporate Management Creative Services / Graphic Design / Architectural Design / Strategic Planning / Retail Professionals in Transition

Contract Design/Specifiers in:

Interior Design/Architecture / Environmental Graphic Design / Consulting / General Contractor / Non-Retailer Professionals in Transition

About our Audience:

75% are senior level executives

85% work at corporate headquarters

Have Questions?

IRDC serves executives, planners, merchandisers and designers from every retail sector—from department stores and discount chains to grocery stores and specialty boutiques—as well as designers, architects, consultants and contractors who specialize in creating and maintaining retail environments.

Almost. If you’re a supplier to the retail design industry (fixtures, lighting, etc), you must be a sponsor to attend the conference. (To learn more, visit the Sponsorship Opportunities page.) Otherwise, anyone interested in learning about new trends and ideas in retail is invited to attend.

No. At IRDC, the focus is on education and networking, so the program is comprised of general sessions, breakout sessions, workshops, roundtable discussions and networking events—all designed to facilitate the exchange of ideas and information.

Please contact us with program recommendations. We welcome your input.

We’re sorry, we are not able to administer AIA credits for conference sessions.

We’ll post the list of 2021 registrants (companies only) here soon. In the final weeks leading up to the conference, the list will be automatically updated as registrations are received.

Yes. We make sure our facility has total accessibility, and we do whatever is needed to make attending the conference as convenient as possible for all attendees. If you have a special need, please contact us after you have registered and we’ll make any necessary arrangements.

Still have a question? Ask your question here

Join us at IRDC 2021 in Denver

Our host hotel is just steps from Denver’s famed 16th Street pedestrian mall and the city’s best entertainment, culture and dining.

Conference Venue

Sheraton Denver Downtown Hotel

1550 Court Pl, Denver, CO 80202

Phone: 303-893-3333

Guest Accommodations