January 14th, 2014 - “The Big Show - NRF 2014” - I spent all yesterday at the Jacob Javits Center in NYC meeting with manufacturers and vendors from every part of the retail industry - software, hardware, services, business intelligence - data analysis and more. It was very exciting. The retail industry is thriving.
Most of the mid-size companies I spoke with reported sales growth of 15 to 20% in the last year, while the smaller companies reported growth of 30% and more. Many exhibitors were rolling out new product and I saw beta versions of mobile devices and POS software to go on them - handheld devices of the Apple and Android varieties.
Motorola launched several new products including a exquisite hand-held bar code scanner (see image on right) that has the flexibility for users to change it’s cover and it’s beep tone.
Retail Pro, a well known point of sale company with 52,000 retailers as clients, is launching Prism - it’s next generation modular POS platform.
I met with Branden Jenkins, General Manager, Retail of Netsuite (NYSE:N), who talked about their growth internationally in the last year since being acquired by Netsuite and expansion of omni-channel capabilities and services. Look for some new high profile clients to be announced.
Justin Hotard, General Manager, NCR Small Business, and Jack O'Malley had a lot to share about the NCR Silver product and it’s growth - numerous expansions in features for Hospitality, and the regular quarterly product updates. They find their product displacing electronic cash registers, and generally being well received by second generation retail business owners who want much more flexibility than a legacy POS system provides. One of the neat features I saw was the ability to post promoted or sale items directly to a Facebook page with just a few clicks. Interestingly, they report that 40% of installations are in customers with over 100 stores.
Angela Mansfield, of CognitiveTPG was showing off some of the things that make their printers extremely durable and well-suited for harsh environments, with features like a self-sharpening ceramic knife for cutting, the ability for models to print in subzero temperatures (ex.ski resorts), support for adhesive on the back of receipts (useful for receipts in QSR, fast food delivery, assembly processes, libraries). See image with the soda can on the left, and the red printer on the right.
Infor executives Andrew Dalziel and Robert McKee spoke of their companies new offering and demonstrated software that included supply chain resourcing, and expressed concern about how long the cloud from the Target credit-card hacking fallout would last.
Jason Richelson, CEO of Shopkeep spoke of the company’s growth in the last year, and targeting markets such as hospitality, QSR and specialty retail. He also showed me a nice handheld POS device by Griffin, designed to allow small business owners the same features that the handheld POS in Apple stores can offer. The product is in beta now and expected to ship in Q2 2014. Shopkeep reported that 60% of their customers were new, start-up businesses.
APG Cash drawer (www.cashdrawer.com) showed a new tablet-agnostic stand that flips, rotates, swivels, expands and contracts as needed. Also on display were cash drawers in a variety of attractive colors. (see top picture, and right side tablet stand image.) Business Development Manager Bob Daugs shared that APG is expanding its manufacturing in China, but solely to serve the Chinese market, and reminded me to "always, always, always pay by cash".
One of the themes that I heard consistently was the growing desire of retailers to create an “experience” for the customers while they were shopping. When the consumer can get the same widget through a variety of channels, a pleasant or stimulating shopping experience is an important tool for getting prospects in the door.
Net: a busy day at the show with the floors and booths being packed with attendees, genuine product improvements shown by many vendors - all reflecting an industry committed to the next generation of retail and firmly staking out its territory as distinct, but also capable of partnering with, Internet storefronts.
The word most often used at the show (and a portent for 2014): “Omni-channel”.
Today, it's back to the show for a second day of fun, technology and new ideas!
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