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Nuts to be in Retail PDF Print E-mail
Written by Rob Guerriere   
Jan 18, 2010 at 10:02 PM

NRF National Retail Federation NYC 2010 Last week 20,000 institutional crazzziesss, including me, showed up in New York City for our annual convention, the National Retail Federation (NRF) Big Show. One really needs to get their head examined for taking on the challenges of the retail industry for a pittance reward.  First and foremost, the economy has the consumer enrolled in the witness protection agency.  Furthermore we live with razor thin margins, real estate fluctuations, government compliances, international sourcing, dealing with the end consumer, staff management issues, lawyers, logistics, off-shoring, environmental sustainability, sadistic competitiveness ... I mean why?  Do you ever ask yourself, how the heck did I fall into this?  If you can do it all over again, would you become a dentist?   I think not.

You are part of a culture.  No matter how you managed to fall into it, you are here and deep down, retail is part of who you are, and you take pride in it.   That was the prevailing theme at this year's convention.  It was exemplified when Kip Tindell, Chairman and CEO of The Container Store, handed Tony Heish, CEO of Zappos, The Retail Innovator of the Year Award.  The company that is known for amazing customer service built that into their brand by embracing corporate culture.  By driving 10 core values, Tony produced a creative and positive team that is success enabled.   In his acceptance of the award, he offered the Zappos Culture Book shipped to anyone who sends him an email asking for it.  So I whipped out my iPhone and took Tony up on his offer.  Two days later the book was on my doorstep. 

The 10 core values that Zappos culture is based upon are:

  1. Deliver WOW Through Service
  2. Embrace and Drive Change
  3. Create Fun and A Little Weirdness
  4. Be Adventurous, Creative, and Open-Minded
  5. Pursue Growth and Learning
  6. Build Open and Honest Relationships With Communication
  7. Build a Positive Team and Family Spirit
  8. Do More with Less
  9. Be Passionate and Determined
  10. Be Humble

Unlike most companies, where core values are just a plaque on the wall, Zappos core values play a big part in how they hire, train, and develop employees.  In eight years Zappos went from $1.6MM in revenue to over $1B, before being sold to Amazon this past year.

The first day of the convention, the keynote speaker was Bert Jacob, CEO and co-founder of Life is Good.  Bert ties his success from driving, living and practicing basic core values of his brand, which are his personal values.  He went on to give his opinion on how your work needs to be an integral part of who you are.  If it is not, you are doing the wrong thing.  You can listen to his 40 minute speech by clicking here.

Most of the conversation was based around product lifecycle management, business intelligence, cross-channel selling, collaboration and ecommerce tools for international sourcing, master data management and supply chain visibility.  A lot of casual lunch conversation was centered on tapping into social networking and media, i.e. Blogs and Facebook. 

During one of these lunch discussions I thought Dr. Jim Skibo, VP of AAFES, made a clear point.  "Social networking is nothing new.  It just used to be called word of mouth."  The Internet increased its velocity.  It is not something you can market directly to, you need to build an experience and story to give people something to talk about.   

Some of the retailers that were presenting best practices of technology implementation were Target, Family Dollar, Office Depot, Men's Warehouse, Urban Outfitters, Rock Tenn, and Burlington Coat Factory.

The AMR sunrise breakfast for retailers broke down the entire show for attendees in this cool chart below.  They talked about how using the latest technology winning demand driven retailers have 30% faster inventory turns then the rest of the industry.  And that is all that Wall Street cares about.  They don't care about the latest mobile app, all they want to see is a retailer turning their inventory.  Sounds so simple, but with a thousand moving parts it's like getting the Boeing 787 off the ground for the first time. 


courtesy of AMR

Calvin Hollinger, the CIO from Urban Outfitters talked about how they use technology to have the right product, in the right place at the right time. 

The GTBP begins to dig into these topics through interviews with technology vendors and case studies on retailers and supplier of retailers in this issue and the next few issues.  Read, The Sterling Commerce Retail Advantage is Deep and Wide, in the January issue.   The February issue will cover product lifecycle management at Urban Outfitters. 

It was rejuvenating to get out and talk with retailers.  Given the economic climate, everyone that I spoke with was optimistic.  Many retailers have plans of further investment in technology this year.   I really enjoyed connecting and sharing jokes and drinks with fellow colleagues as well as getting to meet many new folks, especially those crazy Canadians.  If you missed the show this year, connect on the GTBP.org or the GTBP LinkedIn group in addition to the NRF LinkedIn group.  You don't want to go too long missing group therapy.  This year, Johnny Walker was in charge of the medication.Johnny Walker

Cheers to a solid recovery in 2010 and a profitable demand driven retail environment!


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Last Updated ( Jan 18, 2010 at 10:09 PM )

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