Best of NRF 2013: Top 10 Takeaways

1. Walmart to Boost U.S.-Made Product Purchases by $50B, Commits to Hiring Veterans

Walmart U.S. CEO Bill Simon gave a full-throated defense of both his company and the retail industry's ability to make a positive impact in his NRF keynote address Tuesday, January 15: "Retail jobs are good jobs, and retail plays a critical role in the economy. No matter what you’re looking for, retail has a place for you. That’s awesome and something to be proud of." Simon also made two major announcements: Beginning this Memorial Day, "Walmart will offer a job to any honorably discharged veteran. We project that we'll hire 100,000-plus veterans over the next five years, and we'll do our best to place these folks where they'd like to be." Simon also struck a patriotic note with his other announcement – that Walmart will buy an additional $50 billion in U.S.-made products over the next 10 years. "We'll be increasing what we already buy here, in categories such as sporting goods, apparel, paper and games," says Simon, and Walmart will also help vendors in areas such as furniture and textiles return overseas production to America. He encouraged other retailers to follow Walmart's lead: "If we set our sights higher as an industry, we could drive $500 billion in new American manufacturing purchases over the next 10 years."

2. Chico's Reveals Innovative Item-Level RFID Use Cases

Although item-level apparel inventory tagging is the sweet spot for RFID, according to Motorola Solutions’ Sue Flake there are use cases for the technology in loss prevention, enabling omnichannel operations and shedding light on fitting room conversion rates. Speaking at a breakout session on Tuesday, Jon Beeler, Chico's director of merchandise operations for Soma Intimates, says the retailer is seeing positive results with RFID in its stores after piloting the technology in its headquarters to track the constant influx of sample items. Associates equipped with RFID guns have helped shoppers locate specific items that they otherwise may not have found, such as a customer who came in seeking a navy blue bra in a specific size. “Women only shop for bras an average of two to four times a year,” he says, “so if she’s coming to your brand, you want to be sure you make the sale.” The retailer also discovered that it needed to prevent RF signals from the stockroom from commingling with signals from the selling floor, which skewed the inventory count.

3. SuperSaturday Analyst Day Builds Momentum

Solutions to life’s hardest problems require starting with one small step and the will to keep going. That is an apt description for the four-year-old SuperSaturday Analyst Day, which took place Saturday, January 12, as well as the approach taken by the Retail Orphan Initiative, an organization that provides solutions to help more than 400 million vulnerable children worldwide. This year more than 200 retail executives came together to raise $360,000 for projects that protect and educate orphans. Top-notch presenters included Deborah Weinswig of Citi, Richard Hastings of Global Hunter Securities, Jeff Roster of Gartner, and Paula Rosenblum of RSR Research. But the real star of the event was the spirit of giving back and the will to build on previous steps taken to fund projects that are making a real difference.

4. Four Magic Words: Rock & Roll Retail

RIS produced its 4th annual Rock & Roll Retail at B.B. Kings Monday night, January 14. An unbelievable array of musicians from the retail industry entertained hundreds of guests with music spanning four decades of rock. The event also raised money for RetailROI with the help of True Religion Jeans. A donation of $1000 will be made on behalf of the event's sponsors: Firethorn Mobile, AirWatch, Cisco, Contingent, enVista, Intermec, Hughes, and Guitar Center. The bands were Open All Night, The Smashing Pricepoints, The POS'ers, & Legal Tender. Retailers/musicians spanned all verticals and formats, including Cabela's, Coke, Spencer's, Petco, Ralph Lauren, Elie Tahari and Wet Seal. The passion for music and the passion for retail combine to make Rock & Roll Retail one of the truly unique events at NRF.

5. Macy's Mobile App Improvements Grow User Base 19%

According to Macy's CMO Martine Reardon, by putting rich content behind QR codes and helping shoppers use smartphones to unlock special content, the mobile channel becomes a kind of “silent salesperson.” In a Tuesday session, she revealed that Macy’s achieved a 19% growth in its mobile user base after updating the retailer's mobile app. Macy's also created a dedicated app, offering turn-by-turn directions to help shoppers navigate the newly renovated Herald Square flagship store in New York City, that was downloaded by 10% of current app users. Suzan Kereere, senior vice president, general manager, Global Network Business, American Express, says that even without standards or clarity about where the mobile payments space is headed, the level of innovation in mobile commerce is high. Research shows that two-thirds of consumers under age 45 shop frequently on mobile and are more likely to switch their brand loyalty, but their transaction sizes are smaller. Those 45 or older are much more brand loyal, but don't shop as often, although they do make bigger-ticket purchases.

6. Amazon's Bezos, Crocs, Lululemon Honored by NRF

When NRF presented its annual awards at a Monday luncheon event, Amazon founder Jeff Bezos accepted the association's Gold Medal award by noting “We must have had an incredible interplanetary alignment for this [success] to have happened.” Crocs CEO and president John McCarvel, accepting the award for Retail Innovator of the Year, said “Four years ago we weren’t sure we would survive.” Honored as International Retailer of the Year, Lululemon SVP of retail operations for North America Delaney Schweitzer said “We built the brand on great people, and we’ll continue to build a great guest experience."

7. IT Forecast for 2013: Mobility Still Gaining Momentum

Providing a retail IT forecast for the coming year at a session on Monday, IHL Group's Greg Buzek, co-author of the 10th annual RIS Store Systems Study, said "The fact that 66% of retailers are looking at increasing their store count in 2013 combined with the response that overall reduction in future POS terminal purchases is expected to be 12.4% puts a huge punctuation mark on the impact that mobile is having in retail. The 2013 study revealed that mobile's influence in the store is only accelerating and isn't expected to slow down."

8.Key Retail Technology Deployments

· Best Buy Canada and Future Shop are using Motorola Solutions' ET1 Tablet, MC40 Mobile Computer, and MPM-100 Bluetooth Mobile Payment Module. The companies are Canada's first electronics retailers to roll out fully integrated enterprise mPOS solutions.
· Coach has selected TradeCard as its payments trading partners in an automated workflow environment that eliminates costs related to manual sourcing processes.
· Crate and Barrel will go live this quarter implementing Predictix Merchandise Financial Planning/Merchandise Financial Management, Assortment Panning and Item Planning across all its brands.
· Crocs has implemented the SAP Apparel and Footwear Application to replace its legacy ERP system. Implementation is under way and will help give the retailer control of its global supply chain.
· Deckers Outdoor is using the Oracle Retail platform for real-time insight into item and store sales, helping the retailer forecast demand more accurately and promote and allocate inventory accordingly.
· The Jones Group is piloting Epicor's Mobile Store to enhance operations and increase customer service in stores. The software will be deployed on iPods, bringing information to sales associates and allowing them to complete transactions from anywhere in the store.
· Hibbett Sports has selected QuantiSense Decision Orchestration Platform for enterprise business intelligence. The solution will provide a single foundation for merchandising and store operations across the retailer's more than 800 stores.
· JCPenney is rolling out Microsoft Office 365 to team members throughout the company. The cloud-based solution will improve remote access for employees who can now stay connected with smartphones, remote PCs and other mobile devices.
· Tilly's has launched a mobile commerce app on MicroStrategy's Alert Mobile Commerce Platform to create a branded connection with customers, including wallet functionality, exclusive content, personalized promotions and receipts.
· Weis Markets has chosen Profitect Profit Amplification, a pattern-seeking predictive analytics tool, for deployment across its stores. The initial deployment will include POS and Inventory modules.

9. Major New Technology Announcements at NRF

· Bamboo Rose, an online marketplace where retailers, buyers and suppliers can frictionlessly transition from a social shopping experience to a product buying process, was showcased by its developer, TradeStone Software CEO Sue Welch.
· Dell unveiled its Cloud Client Computing for Retail, an end-to-end cloud solution designed to enable retailers to move to a cloud environment for reduced store system costs and increased reliability, security, deployment speeds, efficiency and flexibility.
· Epson introduced its OmniLink smart solutions, designed to help retailers implement a more customer-centric mobile POS model while preserving existing POS infrastructure.
· Fujitsu introduced U-Scan Quantum Checkout, a POS solution that can switch from self-service to assisted checkout to manned checkout from a single solution set. Retailers can toggle back and forth between modes during a single transaction.
· Galleria announced the addition of Mobile Retail Portal, enabling access to real-time information via a mobile device for increased collaboration among vendor, retailer and field personnel for improved space management capabilities.
· A new product release in partnership with Intel is an advanced coffee vending device launched by Bsquare for the UK’s Cost Express self-service chain. The device’s immersive experience includes a HD touchscreen panel, video tracking and dynamic animation, as well as the ability to make a gourmet-quality cup of coffee.
· JDA announced Customer Engagement Cloud, a solution that addresses omnichannel commerce and optimization logic in real-time, helping retailers deliver goods to customers and align real-time supply processes and inventory.
· Kronos and Manhattan Associates have teamed up to provide a joint solution that will enable retailers to efficiently execute store fulfillment processes while better staffing their stores accordingly, accounting for labor demands from all selling channels and non-service-based activities required to support omnichannel initiatives.
· SAP announced and previewed its mobile apps, On-Shelf Availability Manager and Retail Store Ops Associate, which help retailers market to and engage with consumers, enhancing the shopping experience and boosting loyalty.
· Synqera launched Simplate to the U.S. market, an in-store POS terminal that utilizes customer preferences, behavior, demographics and purchasing information in real-time to provide personalized media communications.

10. A&P, John Lewis, O'Reilly Auto Parts Reveal Success Strategies

Leading retailers shared tips for both surviving and thriving in a fast-changing environment:
· Importance of the CEO/CIO Partnership and Cultural Transformation of A&P: Nirup Krishnamurthy, CIO of A&P, offered an inside look at the giant grocery chain that is undergoing a transformation that includes IT and cultural elements as well as a financial turnaround. Joining in the discussion was Hari Shetty of Wipro as the discussion turned to the essential role played by the partnership between the CEO and CIO when the stakes are so high.
· Retail Goes Personal: Creating the Store Shoppers Want: Customer-centricity and personalization are twin keys to retail success in the omnichannel environment, and they need to be carried out by technology solutions and store associates, according to Paul Coby, CIO of the U.K. chain John Lewis, and Shannon Warner of Cognizant. Mobile solutions, which are also critical, are just the means for executing larger strategies that deliver relevant messages and empower associates.
· Store Mobility: Deliver Endless Aisle, Empower Associates, Improve the Experience: Embracing in-store mobile technology to meet continuously evolving business objectives is a challenge to retailers like Steve Jasinski of O’Reilly Auto Parts and Fred Peterkin of Follett Higher Education Group. But it is also the key to delivering increased revenue and loyalty while decreasing costs. Linda Palanza of OneView noted that while the objective of store mobility is not technology for technology’s sake it should be understood that it requires a platform approach to be truly functional today and in the future.