Industry News for the week of October 24, 2006


RIS News Launches Retail Technology Conference
Gartner's Jeff Roster and industry expert Jim Dion confirmed as keynote speakers

RIS News is introducing a new industry event in 2007 called the Retail Technology Conference (RTC), taking place April 18 to 20 at the Royal Pacific Resort in Orlando, Florida. The RTC is a hybrid event combining the best of an industry trade show with the best of an executive summit €” attendees can expect rich content in highly targeted sessions, great networking opportunities and exposure to the latest in industry innovations and new products.

Hosted by RIS News, the RTC will serve as a major gathering point for line-of-business and technology executives of all levels in the retail industry. The opening keynote will be the debut of the 17th annual RIS/Gartner Retail Technology Tech Trends Study, which features a presentation of highlights by Jeff Roster, vice president, retail research at Gartner, who will deliver critical insight into what the study's data points mean to retailers.

"Making the RIS/Gartner Retail Technology Trends Study the opening keynote session at the new Retail Technology Conference is the ideal setting for this major industry presentation," says Joe Skorupa, group editor-in-chief of RIS News, who will join Roster in presenting the findings at RTC. "Since so many leading executives in the retail industry, both retailers and IT vendors, look forward to attending the study presentation each year, it is important that it debut at a large event, where the industry as a whole can get insight into the findings first hand. The launch of the exciting new RTC concept is the ideal venue to ensure that study findings debut to a diverse retail audience."

Day two of the RTC will begin with a motivational keynote presented by retail strategist and consultant Jim Dion, founder and president of Dionco. Dion will provide practical tips and insight into "What it Takes to Win in Retail Today €” Trends & Strategies That Build Amazing Retail Concepts." In an upbeat, lively presentation, Dion will address all aspects of the retail environment, from inventory and pricing to the in-store experience and staff motivation.

For the latest information on the RIS News Retail Technology Conference, and how to get involved, go to


Bare Escentuals Launches New Web Site
Bare Escentuals launches a new site using Demandware on demand e-Commerce platform. The new site is designed to improve the shopping experience for customers through an increased and better display of information. The site features enhanced online ordering, check-out and ability to upsell items. Demandware and Bare Escentuals teamed with interactive merchandising partner Fluid to re-launch Plans also are in the works to re-launch the BareEscentuals site in 2007.

Borders Adds Financial Planning
Beginning in early 2007, Borders Group is expanding the scope of its work with OutlookSoft, to include financial planning and reporting for its distribution centers and its more than 1,200 stores around the world. The goals for Borders Group, which began working with OutlookSoft in 2002, are to increase corporate visibility, streamline operations and improve productivity. By serving as Borders Group's primary financial planning tool, OutlookSoft provides added insight into corporate and departmental spending, and generates employee-specific data that correlates to enterprise-wide planning cycles.

Five Retailers Aim to Improve e-Commerce Operations
Emporium Luggage,, Trailblazers, Touring Club Suisse, and Video Plus sign with Escalate Retail, a provider of sales, merchandising, and loyalty solutions for retailers, e-tailers and direct marketers. The five retailers will implement Escalate Retail's Commerce Suite and POS solutions.


Data Visualization Software Turns Spreadsheets into Presentations
Business Objects introduces CX Now! a free, lightweight version of Crystal Xcelsius, its data visualization software for creating interactive presentations and business dashboards. CX Now! transforms Excel spreadsheets into charts, graphs, and interactive dashboards, which can be exported to Microsoft Word and PowerPoint documents, or to the Web. Users can create presentations with visual components such as sliders, which enable them to analyze "what-if" scenarios and predict how their decisions could impact performance.

Retail Decisions Augments Fraud Prevention
Retail Decisions introduces its next-generation Fraud Prevention service, ReD Shield. This is an evolution from the company's ebitGuard service, which now offers fraud prevention and outsort processing to assist a client's in-house risk analysts with an integrated fraud prevention solution from a single browser-based interface.


LG Electronics Integrates Global IT Infrastructure
LG Electronics, a global leader and technology innovator in consumer electronics and mobile communications, begins the implementation of Oracle SOA Suite, a component of Oracle Fusion Middleware, to integrate its global IT infrastructure into a service-oriented architecture (SOA). The company plans to integrate its system interfaces based on an SOA and to make it a standard way of integrating its global infrastructure. The move to an SOA is expected to create more flexibility in its IT architecture while helping reduce the complexity of its data. Furthermore, the company expects to utilize Oracle SOA Suite to more efficiently monitor and manage its systems.

Fresh Express Tracks Product Freshness and Location
Salad maker Fresh Express selects TR3 On-Demand RPM to improve the performance of its retail trading partner relationships. Fresh Express will be using TR3's On-Demand solution for promotions, sales and supply chain visibility, plus TR3's Perishables Module that adds capabilities for products sold with expiration dates. TR3 On-Demand processes the information read from RFID tags at several major retailers, including Wal-Mart, and alerts Fresh Express to key issues such as supply chain bottlenecks and, if necessary, to better execute recalls.


Intermec and Informs Deliver RFID Compliance Kit
Intermec and Informs introduce the Informs RFID Experience in a Box Kit in response to increasing mandates for RFID-compliant shipments to retailers and the U.S. Department of Defense. The joint effort brings affordable RFID compliance to small- and medium-sized businesses and includes everything required to meet RFID compliance mandates, apply RFID tags and verify tag information. The Informs kit includes an Intermec 751 mobile computer loaded with Tag Manager software from EPC Solutions that integrates with any ERP system, an Intermec IP4 handheld portable RFID reader and IF5 fixed tag reader, as well as PC-based compliance software that can act as a stand-alone shipping application and interoperates with all ERP software.

Vue Technology and Paxar Unveil Mobile and Smart Shelf RFID Software
Vue Technology and Paxar debut a mobile cart solution to provide inventory management from a single station; a handheld solution that provides a cost-effective entry point for item-level RFID; and an integrated mobile cart/smart shelf that delivers continuous and widespread inventory visibility. All three solutions run on Vue's TrueVUE RFID Platform, leverage Paxar's tags and enable retailers to increase same-store sales, streamline replenishment activities, reduce inventory shrink and improve employee productivity.


Gap Names New President of Old Navy
Dawn Robertson joins the Gap company as president of Old Navy, effective October 30. Robertson has nearly 30 years of apparel retail experience, most recently as managing director of Myer, an Australian department store chain, where she repositioned the brand and improved its financial performance. Prior to that she served as president and chief merchandising officer of Federated Direct, a division of Federated Department Stores, overseeing the online and catalog businesses for Macy's and Bloomingdale's, and held several senior positions with The May Company.

Family Dollar Announces New IT VP
Family Dollar names Michael Laurenti to the position of vice president of information technology in the U.S. Prior to joining Family Dollar, Laurenti was vice president of business and technology services for Linens 'N Things.


Digital Signage: Perfect Storm of Benefits
by Stan Woodward

There is a perfect storm of benefits emerging around digital signage, which includes (a) proven sales lifts on drag-along and accessory items that are promoted near core destination items; (b) potential for ad revenue on the signage network that is exclusive of co-op funding already in place; (c) brand building opportunities for marketing using video instead of paper to communicate; and (d) better compliance using digital signage versus paper signs that may never make it off the shipping dock.

Retailers are seeing accessory sales lifts of five percent to 30 percent and these numbers are wildly variable depending on the quality and relevance of the content and where the sign is placed in relation to the item promoted. On the advertising side, there are no standards or rates yet in place, but organizations such as POPAI and others are working at getting a range set. If you compare in-store signage to other ad mediums, you just can't escape the fact that you are preaching to the converted: The customers are in your store with their wallets out and ready to buy something. You can't say that about TV or radio. So the ad rates should be higher and will be longer term as this medium progresses and grows.

Any retailer can use digital signage but the return metrics have to be different. For a mass merchandiser with 1,000 stores, there are sales lift opportunities, ad revenue potential and huge branding initiatives that can be launched, and the economies of scale start to kick in relative to cost-per-screen and the cost of printing on paper or plastic. For smaller retailers, signage isn't as viable for recovering ad revenues but can create sales lift just as easily. It also can be used to create a certain mood in the store or provide information for customers coming in.

At the moment, just about anything is fair game to be displayed on a digital sign and that includes simple PowerPoints all the way up to High-Definition video. The trend will be to put the target content into highly compressed, high-quality, video formats such as MPEG4 or Windows Media (WMV) that eases workflow, distribution and player horsepower requirements. The use of a common operating system environment all the way down to the player has a huge impact and this is an area where Microsoft will have an edge over time. In general, these files are very large, and underestimating the requirements for managing digital signage content seems to be common.

IT staff needed is highly variable but generally there needs to be a person in IT who is on point and can manage the distribution of the content out to the screens. Marketing also needs to dedicate somebody to the creation, scheduling and ingest of content into the system. If the retailer opts to buy the pieces and own their own system, there will obviously be others involved in managing the system, including store operations people who will have to deal with local issues in the stores. In general, it depends on how many screens, unique channels, and how often content is going to be updated.

We have seen one deployment for more than 1,400 stores take place in less than six months, which was probably a world record. No averages really. In the simplest case, it boils down to how long it would take to either hang or place a sign, connect the player to the Internet, retrieve content and start playing, and we can make that happen in less than an hour if we use an ASP model. The location of the screen, network availability, cabling and power issues drive a lot of the deployment timing issues.

One of the biggest considerations is whether to build it or to use an ASP-hosted model. If IT and IS don't have the headcount to manage the entire project in-house, a service can work nicely and offload the support burden to third parties. Another big issue is not letting marketing or the agency determine what the actual content "format" is going to be. Size your network and current WAN capabilities, do some simple math on file size and CPU capability required to decode and store that format on the local player PC, and then let marketing know their options. We have seen some retailers spend hundreds of thousands of dollars to deploy systems that have no WAN connectivity at all or near-dialup download speeds. This results in manual loading of the content in the stores, which doesn't scale, or wide-scale embarrassment in IT when marketing figures out they can't download anything but simple JPEGs to screens.

This trend toward consolidating on a very small number of common file formats for digital signage content will continue, just as it has for online ad banners. Reporting standards and advertising rates and schedules will have to be developed and agreed on, and this will all be part of the gradual maturing of the business and the inclusion of more mainstream media houses. High quality content will be required and expected, and this will drive player hardware requirements similar to what we are seeing in the set-top box area where they are getting more powerful, not less. For content creation, the move toward common content creation and editing platforms, such as Adobe AfterEffects, Premier, Final Cut, Avid, etc. to create content will be the norm versus using proprietary systems that lock the retailer into a signage system based on their creation tools.

When selecting digital signage, scalability is the number one factor for medium to large retailers. You won't be deploying just one screen, typically, and there are a number of moving parts that all need to work seamlessly. Having a vendor who can provide an integrated workflow that allows marketing to actually use the system to drive sales lift, target different customer segments and schedule content is very important. Network issues are always key and having a system that can easily navigate firewalls, multicast networks, and appear help-desk friendly is a big plus. In the end, having a flexible system that can easily support whatever types of screens, or combinations of screens, that you deploy is also a big factor.

Stan Woodward is chairman and chief executive officer of Reflect Systems. Previouly, he served as vice president of business and enterprise services for and Yahoo!, from 1997 to 2000. Woodward holds a BSEE degree from Oklahoma State University and serves on the board of Austin College in Sherman, Texas.

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