Retail Power

Annual NRF show promotes retail technology advances

NEW YORK -- The mood was upbeat for retail in general as officials with the National Retail Federation (NRF) welcomed attendees to its 101st annual conference, the "Big Show," and announced optimistic news for the retail sector.

Though stubbornly high unemployment dampens the outlook for 2012, the retail industry will still grow at a rate faster than many other industries, according to officials. This year, retail industry sales will rise 3.4% to $2.53 trillion, according to the NRF, slightly lower than the pace of 2011, in which sales grew 4.7%.

"Over the last 18 months, retailers have been on the forefront of the economic recovery--creating jobs, encouraging consumer spending, and investing in America," said NRF president and CEO Matthew Shay in a statement. "Our 2012 forecast is a vote of confidence in the retail industry and our ability to succeed even in a challenging economy. Retailers have played a key role in driving growth, but to continue this momentum we need Washington to act on proposals that will spur job creation and unleash the power of the private sector."

Other revelations at the show included a few from Raleigh, N.C.-based MaxPoint Interactive, a consultancy that helps retailers drive in-store traffic through technology. They noted recurring themes of mobile adoption, a cross-channel customer experience, data security and growing excellence in customer service.

Suppliers at the conference noted heavy interest in areas such as self checkout. A representative from ECR Software Corp., Boone, N.C., said their software--housed on an HP self-checkout unit--received a lot of interest for its fresh new look.

"We do a lot of research between ECR and HP targeting the frustrations consumers have with self-checkout--slow transactions, scratched scanners and other issues," Ashlee Olson, vice president of marketing for ECR told CSP Daily News. "Our system is very fast and uses a lighting system that directs the eye. When you get cash back, the area lights up. And it's at eye level, so it's not beneath you."

Special features include a new, patent-pending "LED Consumer Guidance" system that is designed to ease customer frustration, speed transactions, and reduce attendant workload.

ECRS has been providing complete retail automation solutions since 1989. The ECRS solutions suite includes: Point-of-sale, self-checkout, backoffice management, mobile reporting and analytics, automated inventory management, supplier integration, video surveillance, self-hosted gift card, customer loyalty, membership management, dedicated store server, POS electronic advertising, signature capture and pharmacy management system integration.  

As one of the world's largest retail trade associations, NRF represents retailers of all types and sizes, including chain restaurants and industry partners, from the United States and more than 45 countries abroad. Retailers operate more than 3.6 million U.S. establishments that support one in four U.S. jobs--42 million working Americans. Contributing $2.5 trillion to annual GDP, retail is a daily barometer for the nation's economy.