RSPA Orlando 2014 – the wrap up


Wow, what a great year for the retail solutions industry. Turn out at the RSPA (Retail Solution Providers Association) show in Orlando last week was just terrific.  Thousands came to see new products, talk to the vendors, attend seminars about their industry. 

What we heard from VARs and vendors: 

POS Software executives were generally pleased with demand for their products.    Will Atkinson, head of CAP Retail, said that things are smooth and that 2014 has been a very good year.  He reported that resellers are still looking for the traditional POS systems.    John Giles, of FuturePOS, told me that sales were up 30% YTD over last year. 

POS resellers Dean Hitt and Michael Boyd of POSC Business Systems in Tennessee were also very enthusiastic and reported they’d had five straight years of double digit sales growth.

New and ongoing changes in the industry include loyalty programs, payment processing alternatives,  mobile (!!!)  point of sale – not just line busting , but year round mobility for all staff to process orders, accept payment, check inventory,  – millions of devices are being implemented now.  Millions more to come soon. 

Digital signage is everywhere.   Table side entertainment, marketing, ordering for clients.    Tab tracking – products that allow patrons to close out a tab right from their smart phone –   clearly technology has never had a bigger role on the retail floor.

Remote ordering and pickup is a growing niche – Panera has apps to allow users to order ahead and pay for it remotely.. the food order is then on a shelf when you get there.  (not available for Android as of last week) .

Funding and deals in this industry continue to steam ahead.  Two of the bigger ones were announced in just the last few months.  Oracle is buying MICROS for $5.3 billion dollars, and,  Zebra (around 1 billion in 2013 annual sales)  is buying Motorola Solutions Enterprise business for $3.45 billion dollars – using $200 million in cash and putting the rest on a credit card*.    (Side note – lots of chatter about these deals – most of it questioning the value or logic, and whether they would pan out.  I guess we’ll know by 2019.  Oracle sure has some deep pockets.)    ScanSource just announced a Brazilian acquisition.   Numerous small software vendors were endowed with big checks this year, just after getting money last year.  Surely not all that was necessary.  Are VCs closing out existing funds so they can raise again?  I swear I have seen this several times before, we must be at the end of a cycle.   

Challenges abound – technology continues to replace low paying jobs and that is going to be a problem for our society.    Some McDonalds restaurants are adding customer self-service ordering terminals, and why not?  It’’s overdue.   One vendor I spoke with said it would work in McDonalds, but not for a full service restaurant.  I beg to disagree.  Most everyone under 50, who has a smart phone, could easily handle a multi-layer ordering system (layer 1, dinner, layer 2 – entrees, layer 3, steak – layer 4 rare/medium/burnt etc).   Tableside ordering is increasing.   Will we see it at Ruth’s Chris and other fine restaurants?  I’d be delighted to place my own order at Ruth’s. 

Tiny restaurant tablets not thrilling everyone – the complaints I heard were that  a) the small form factor required more layers of menus,  b) reading glasses were needed for those over 45,  c)  low processing power causing large databases not to be handled well.  The consensus is that the tablet is not ready to replace traditional hardware – particularly in the hospitality niche – but it will do just fine for the very small business.  

The elimination of low paying jobs is going to continue.  It is not Obamacare that is driving it, that is just this week’s excuse. (I’m tired of hearing the same old drivel.)     Technology has ALWAYS driven out low paying jobs – from the time of the invention of the steam shovel –  men with shovels were displaced.  Weaving machines replaced hand loom operators.  When communications switching technology was perfected,  manual operators lost their jobs.    Robots have been taking over low paying jobs in every industry for several decades and that trend is increasing.   Health care IS still quite broken and Congress should be working on improving the ACA.      (Note to those who keep bashing the President – you should be smart enough to realize that he was elected by a majority of the country – insulting him is also insulting those who voted for him. Want to win more deals?  Stick to technology and talk UP the benefits.)   

I would point out that the RSPA has existed for 60+ years because of the ability of technology to drive incremental productivity.   

 A few thank you’s –  first, to all the experts who so graciously took time to share their knowledge, second to all the vendors who hosted hospitality events and extended invitations.   The quality of networking at RSPA cannot be topped!   Thank you to the PR firms, like Stephenz and Skyrocket, for getting us access to top executives and product people – it really helps! Thank you to BlueStar and ScanSource for the nice buffets.  
Finally, thank you to all the RSPA staff and contributors who made this happen and did a great job!  

That’s it.   Think about attending the winter 2015 RSPA meeting in Hawaii! 

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