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‘The BIG Show’ Must Go On


One of the toughest holiday shopping seasons may be history, but a lagging economy is still impacting retailers’ business plans as companies embark on short-term and long-term operational and IT goals. In an effort to learn how to operate more efficiently and successfully in this tough economic climate, retail executives are making their way to the 98th annual NRF Convention & EXPO.

A poor economy, coupled with corporate freezes on travel and hiring, won’t be enough to keep executives away from the annual NRF convention, sponsored by The National Retail Federation, Washington, D.C. The event, known as “Retail’s BIG Show,” is scheduled for Jan. 11-14. Approximately 18,500 delegates, including retail executives, vendors and consultants, will meet at the Jacob K. Javits Center in Manhattan, where they will take advantage of a strong educational agenda and an EXPO floor.

While all executives will come armed with agendas, chances are most attendees are hitting the show to find answers to the same burning question: how to cut operating costs and still best serve shoppers? This is not an easy task, considering most chains continue their uphill battle against a credit crunch, slow customer traffic and sales, and industry-wide bankruptcies and store closings. But based on the show’s “Inspiration Starts Here” tagline, hope is on the horizon.

“Every year the economic climate changes,” noted Dave Hogan, NRF’s CIO.

“Compared to last year at this time, the stock market is down 40%, and the banking industry and credit crunch have equally taken a toll on retailers,” he said. “The show’s tone will undoubtedly give hints in how to succeed in a tough economic climate.”

The show’s annual CIO Innovators Forum is sure to address some of these issues. While past shows’ CIO forums discussed how retail IT teams are leveraging the latest technologies while maintaining existing systems, this year the formula has changed. Retailers are watching every dollar in their IT budgets, but are still expected to use innovative solutions to support business operations in a cost-effective manner.

“Clearly, IT budgets and capital expenditures have changed over the last few months, and all companies have a different view of what and how to prune or cut back investments, and what projects to move ahead on,” Hogan reported.

CIO Summit moderator Scott Langdoc, founder and strategist for IT retail consultancy firm retailCentric, will discuss these and other pressing IT topics with Calvin Hollinger, CIO, Urban Outfitters; Doug Rutledge, Fresh & Easy Neighborhood Market; and Susan Harwood, CIO, Borders Group.

“We host this session every year, but this year’s panel is a great cross-section of the industry based on size, formats and IT experiences,” Hogan explained.

To ensure attendees can gain more detailed insight into some of the topics discussed in the summit, NRF will spotlight some mission-critical IT concepts in dedicated breakout sessions.

For example, Clarence Kelly, executive VP and director of planning and allocation for Plano, Texas-based J.C. Penny Co., will discuss the power of analytics during “Using Science to Enhance Art: The Power of Data to Improve Profitability.”

Analytics can also give a boost to pricing practices. Attendees are invited to learn how during “Delivering Value With Life-cycle Pricing” and “Going Local: Breaking Boundaries in Pricing and Promotion Strategies.”

Retailers are also keeping data security top-of-mind, “not only from a PCI [payment card industry] perspective, but from the perspective of protecting any personally identifiable information within the organization,” Hogan said. Industry executives will report on these points, as well as on handy tips during “Customer Privacy & Data Security: Making It a Boardroom Topic.”

“Attendees should take a long, hard look at the solutions and ideas available in sessions and on the EXPO floor,” Hogan said.

“Every company has different problems and each will find different answers,” he said. “But if each executive is able to grab two or three good ideas, then they have a tangible way to make a difference in their companies.”

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