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As the industry braces for a recession, retailers are already evaluating how to present the best store-level customer experience in the most inventive, cost-effective way possible. They can find an array of ideas at the fifth annual Technology & Operations Store Summit (TOPSS) this spring.
The event, produced by Chain Store Age and Retail Technology Quarterly, will be held June 10-12, at the Red Rock Casino Resort & Spa in Las Vegas. To engage attendees, TOPSS will again feature its popular relaxed, “interactive meeting” format designed to encourage intimate, serious discussions among peers from all lines of the retail business.
It also has a very targeted focus: issues that impact the store. “TOPSS is the only retail event that focuses on the store, and improving the store experience,” according to Cathy Hotka, principal, Cathy Hotka & Associates, Washington, D.C.
“To grow the retail experience, you need a balance of retail operations and IT,” she added. “That said, you need participants from every piece of the business to dive deep into issues so the business will evolve.”
Attendees will notice that the show has been moved up from its typical fall schedule. This strategic move will benefit retailers as they create a plan to operate within a sluggish economy.
“By moving up the meeting, we are giving attendees actionable information that they can apply right away, and help them compete more effectively for the rest of the year,” said Hotka, who co-created the show’s program.
One session that promises to shed light on this very topic is “Good News in Bad Times.” Ken Brame, former CIO, AutoZone, Memphis, Tenn.; Tony Briggs, VP of IT, Payless ShoeSource, Topeka, Kan., and Jeff Chasney, CIO, CKE Restaurants, Carpinteria, Calif., will explore “bulletproof processes” needed to increase store growth, and what operations and IT solutions need to be in place to support expansion going forward.
Realizing this growth requires significant investments, retailers are concerned with how to ensure they are getting the most out of their efforts. During the session, “Assessing Store Performance,” a panel comprised of AutoZone’s Brame, Alan Barnett, former senior VP of merchandise planning and information systems, Barneys New York, and former VP, merchandise planning, allocation and replenishment, Levitz Furniture, New York, and Bob O’Hern, COO, Ritz Camera, will discuss how to make process and IT investments work. They will also reveal the right practices and metrics needed to assess store performance.
TOPSS will deliver insights into how to step up operations and appeal more to shoppers—not an easy task as consumers continue to pull back their discretionary dollars. During “COOLEST! Innovative, Interactive Applications That Are Changing the Retail Game,” a panel of retailers will share how they have applied daring technology innovations to their operations.
Meanwhile, retailers sitting in on “Get Closer. Sell More. Protect Information,” will learn about innovative marketing approaches and other new ways to engage shoppers—especially younger ones—while still protecting sensitive data.
TOPSS will also address the everyday challenges that stymie retailers. These topics include wireless and broadband issues, task management, loyalty programs and getting the most out of IT vendor relationships.
Retailers will have plenty of time to network with peers. In addition to networking breakfasts, attendees can share tips and experiences during topic table discussions at Wednesday’s networking lunch. Here, retailers can weigh in on a variety of issues, including point of sale, biometrics, PCI and security, as well as human resources, telecommunications and return fraud.
Of course, attendees can unwind during relaxing cocktail receptions following each day’s last session.
“While attending industry trade shows, I was always shocked that hosting companies didn’t encourage attendees to mingle. Instead, many would go back to their hotels and order room service,” Hotka said. “Our networking opportunities encourage attendees to meet, visit sponsors at their booths, and make dinner plans to keep the conversations going.”