NRF attendees feeling really good about 2015

Discussion
Jan 14, 2015
George Anderson

The mood of exhibitors and attendees at the National Retail Federation’s Big Show in New York was decidedly upbeat with many pointing to an improving jobs picture, lower gas prices and the recently completed holiday sales season as sources for optimism at the start of 2015.

As in years past, RetailWire was at the Javits Center to gauge, in our own anecdotal and unscientific fashion, the mood of the industry compared to previous years. We discovered a strong sense of optimism, with 2015 marking the fourth consecutive year that the mood of those we spoke with showed improvement. More than half (56 percent) were much more optimistic about the prospects for the year ahead.

Several key themes also developed in our discussions at NRF including the customer journey, collaboration, predictive analytics and getting real about omnichannel.

The use of data is seen as critical for retailers to continue improving. Many vendors echoed the theme that merchants need to look beyond the customer experience in stores or online. The gist of the position is simple: better serving the needs of customers means developing a deeper understanding of individual shoppers and not just insights based on one aspect of their journey.

In line with the need to understand the customer journey comes collaboration. Retailers, it was argued, have access to their own sales data, but that is not enough to fully understand the consumer. Gaining access to data and insights about a retailer’s customers can be obtained in a variety of ways including from product suppliers, third-party tech vendors, etc.

Excellence in retailing has always been determined by being able to anticipate the needs of customers. That, of course, has been taken to a whole new level in the age of big data with predictive analytics. Vendors said the ability to use data and predict patterns of behavior is advancing at a rapid rate and will go a long way in determining who wins the competition for consumer dollars.

The final note is the acknowledgement that despite all the talk about omnichannel initiatives, most retailers are a long way off from creating a system that is both seamless to the consumer and their own organization. The reason the reality lags the rhetoric is pretty simple: the existing legacy systems of retailers. Chains have invested millions of dollars in their existing systems and most are not able financially to just blow them up and start for scratch.

While some companies, RetailWire was told, are looking at scrapping their systems, most are trying to cobble together add-on solutions to help them address the most immediate needs. Vendors have gotten the message and are working with retailers to achieve their smaller step gains.

Are you more or less optimistic about the prospects for the retail industry in 2015? What key themes do you think will be most prominent within the industry this year?

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11 Comments on "NRF attendees feeling really good about 2015"


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Paula Rosenblum
Guest
4 years 5 months ago
I agree with you. Even though there are some retailers that will be culled from the herd this year, overall it seemed retailers were happy and bullish on the store. The omni-channel immaturity theme is very prevalent in all our data. Retailers don’t yet have the visibility into enterprise inventory that they need to get it done right, and there are some real tweaks that need to happen in planning and forecasting systems. But let’s put it in perspective. We are still talking 10 to 15 percent of the business in flux. 85 to 90 percent—the store—is a known quantity. It needs refreshing, and budgets seem to be going there. I think the days of quaking in the face of Amazon are over, and I actually believe Amazon is going to have a rough time this year. Investors have become restless, which means (sadly, since I’m a junkie) prices will likely rise. My only worry is the focus on IoT. I’m hopeful retailers are thoughtful in their use of in-store tracking and focus more on… Read more »
David Livingston
Guest
4 years 5 months ago

Just like every other year. If you are a good retailer, the economy is always good and every year is good year.

Gordon Arnold
Guest
4 years 5 months ago

Strategic economic growth indicators for the national and world economic conditions can be misconstrued to leave us with confidence for the near term and long term. Business membership with the ability and willingness to scratch beneath the surface of the growing economic support information will abruptly become dismayed with their findings.

Today’s elected officials as well as our financial expert investment counselors are strongly reminiscent of yesteryear’s circus barkers selling lots of sizzle with very little meat on the bone. Today’s retailers may go down in history as the best of the best who succeed in spite of and not because of.

Carol Spieckerman
Guest
4 years 5 months ago

I conducted a couple of private presentations in conjunction with NRF and agree that the mood is much more upbeat in general and within individual companies (the same was true at CES). Over the last few years, companies seemed to be playing a dangerous game of wait-and-see. 2015 is kicking off with a more proactive, confident and entrepreneurial spirit for a few reasons. Many of the retailers that have made it this far have a few “new world” successes under their belts and most have integrated new talent, acquisitions and processes into their organizations as well. This is making all the difference.

Arie Shpanya
Guest
4 years 5 months ago

I’m definitely very optimistic about retail in 2015 because the industry as a whole is starting to warm up to big data. It can provide answers to so many of the questions that have plagued retailers for years: what is the best price for my products? When are shoppers most active? Which items should I bundle to boost average order value?

Another reason why I am so optimistic is because there are so many retail solutions out there to help. It’s no longer the case that if you’re giant retailer with all the resources, then all the sales are yours. From inventory management, to marketing, to repricing, now there is a solution to help with every aspect of retail. As retailers of all sizes widely use solutions and embrace omnichannel, retail is going to be very interesting in 2015.

Gordon Russell
Guest
Gordon Russell
4 years 5 months ago

Just returned from the NRF show in NYC. Retailers seemed more optimistic than last year. The larger retailers are scrambling to effectively use the data they are gathering to drive sales and profits. Personalization and inventory optimization were hot topics. The small retailers are scrambling to more effectively compete with Amazon. Leveraging their customer relationships and exploring cooperative relationships with other small retailers are top of mind for them. Also getting “smarter” through deployment of new technology now within their financial reach.

Tom Redd
Guest
4 years 5 months ago

January will be a strong month for retail due to tighter inventory control. Lots of focus on the flip of omni shifting to the world of retail. Retail means ALL channels—no need for a term like omni or a separate mode of thinking. Macy’s and Target will play strong games in 2015 along with Walmart and Costco and many more. Key is serving the shopper—no matter the channel and doing the same with inventory. Hats off to the retailers that forecast inventory the right way and will offer January as a weak discount or ON SALE month!

Tom…2015 – Retail’s NEW ALL CHANNEL life!

Roger Saunders
Guest
4 years 5 months ago

Retailers have every reason to be MORE optimistic in 2015 if they 1) are more consumer-centric in their practices, 2) embrace advanced analytics, 3) are willing to work closely and mutually collaborate with suppliers of merchandising, marketing, operations, distribution, and physical property, 4) recognize that omnichannel means learning which media forms will INFLUENCE the purchase decisions of their various consumer segments for different merchandising categories.

Those will be the big winners. And, they’ll be doing two things: A) Giving high-fives and bonuses at the end of the year, and B) continuously keeping Satchel Paige’s wisdom of “Don’t look back. Something might be gaining on you.” (With eyes in the back of their head, of course).

Lee Kent
Guest
4 years 5 months ago

I am much more optimistic because, finally, I think they “get it.” In recent years, it seemed that retail was simply looking for the low hanging fruit and easy changes that might differentiate. Many “flash in the pan” type efforts.

Those days are over for smart retailers. They now know that they will need to tackle some big projects including, first and foremost, having a single view of the inventory. Then they will need to tackle how to cobble onto existing systems with a longer-term strategy of deconstructing one at a time.

My buzz word for 2015 is “strategy in process” until I can think of something better. And that’s my 2 cents….

Karen S. Herman
Guest
4 years 5 months ago

I’m growing more optimistic after reading the “NRF 2015 Top 250 Global Powers of Retailing” report. The trends mentioned for this year of Mobile Retailing, Faster Retailing, Experience Retailing, and, Innovative Retailing, are fresh and exciting, offering retailers many ways to embrace omni-channel marketing and give customers seamless shopping experiences in new and disruptive formats.

W. Frank Dell II
Guest
4 years 5 months ago

The drop in gasoline price could be the greatest factor for retail sales increasing. This will take three to six months to start showing up in the numbers. If states or the federal government jump on the lower gasoline prices as an opportunity to increase gas taxes, then this will reduce the retail growth rate.

The key theme for the next few years will be “know thy customer.” Not just the internal sales data, but link this with social media and other external information to gain a better understanding of customer wants.

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