By Joe Skorupa
The NRF Big Show is a multi-day carnival of overlapping parties, warp-speed meetings, lightning conversations, high-octane demos, early breakfasts, late nights and glitzy exhibit booths. Attendance was down and so were expectations, but there was plenty of buzz and excitement.
What follows is a distillation of everything I saw, heard and experienced in a ramble that parallels how the information was delivered. NRF is a circus-like trade show and not an intimate, thought-provoking summit. Here is how it went.
Goodbye to the Big Apple: The first rumor I heard was that NRF was moving the Big Show to Washington, D.C. And it turned out to be true!...Hot, Hot, Hotka: The Insider's Party was so crowded CIOs and vendors were turned away from the jam packed Westin ballroom. Glad they let me in. Lots of good friends and colleagues to talk to. Also glad the Retail Orphan Initiative was getting tons of support...Going Mobile: Escalate is definitely ahead of the curve with its support of the 2D barcode protocol linking cell phones to a Web site. Possibilities are endless. If you are a retailer and not piloting mobile you are in danger of missing the boat...Toast of Broadway: Tech Global Partners had the best view of Times Square and a great crowd of industry folks at its Marriott Marquis party. Tech Global Partners is a new consulting firm started by old friend Mike Hess, and NRF was a great way to get noticed...Married in Manhattan: The bad old days of booth babes is better off forgotten, but how about booth brides? That was the big idea at Manhattan Associates, which was promoting client David's Bridal while simultaneously linking "Say I Do" and "Fulfilling Dreams" marketing concepts to highlight "fulfill anywhere" technology...Retailers Get Vertical: The trend by retailers to create new products and increasingly act as brand managers has pushed many new clients into SAP's sweet spot. Lots of new clients, go-lives, applications and energy at SAP...Food Court Part 1: Can't believe I ate two of three meals in one day in heartburn alley, I mean the food court. If I ever go three for three, please put me out of my misery...Price Optimization 2.0: DemandTec got me thinking about how store-centric price optimization is today. What if a unified price optimization platform was created that includes optimization for price, promotions and assortment? And what if a data repository was created specifically to flow shopper insight data into decision making? These are DemandTec ideas definitely worth exploring...Deal or No Deal: JDA took the Howie Mandel approach to attracting booth traffic, complete with stylish girls in short skirts. It worked for Howie, so why not?...3D Planogram: Larry Ellison shows no signs of slowing down acquisition activity. Last year Oracle purchased British-based AVT, which has cool 3D shelf/store planning technology. It is visually stunning and currently being integrated into the Oracle retail suite. As always, Oracle is a class act and took a select group to Le Bernadin, one of the best restaurants in NYC, if not the country...Walmart Sighting: No I'm not talking about outgoing CEO Lee Scott, the opening keynote. I'm talking about Agentrics big Walmart win in the private brand area of technology. Walmart is rebranding its Great Value label and using Agentrics PLM technology to enable it. As a media professional, I know how hard it is to get Walmart to go on the record. Agentrics pulled off a coup...So, Where's Lawson?: A few years ago a respected analyst speculated that Lawson was pulling out of the retail market because it downsized its retail staff. Lawson went ballistic. Now Lawson was a no-show at NRF. Draw your own conclusions. It's a free country...Winning Business Model Part 1: The average tenure for employees at Cornell-Mayo is 15 years. It does zero off-shoring, has no turnover, is an industry-leader in client satisfaction, and business was up 10 percent last year. There's a lesson in there somewhere...Emerging Giants Part 1: If Epicor isn't on your radar screen as a fast-growing, enterprise-class, end-to-end application provider you need to get new radar. It continues to add clients and functionalities at a brisk clip...Which Rainbow Room?: Who knew there were several Rainbow Rooms at the Rainbow Room? I found out when people coming to our party entered other parties and couldn't find the RIS team. Where's the host? Oh, they are at the other Rainbow Room...Emerging Giants Part 2: RedPrairie had the best year ever for revenue and profit. They are the second of my picks as the Big Three of emerging giants that may ultimately help create the retail ERP suite of the future. Oracle and SAP are already there, but the field may get a bit more crowded...Winning Business Model Part 2: The average tenure at Magstar is about 20 years, it has a grand total of two sales people, client satisfaction is through the roof, new apps role out every couple of months and business is up. Some companies just get it...Food Court Part 2: Couldn't stand the thought of another breakfast at the "cafe," so I skipped it. But I broke down for lunch. No other options...Smart Planet: IBM had show stopper demos with a digital mirror and 3D room planning, but the real news is about its Smart Planet initiative and a framework to enable it. You've seen the TV commercials during the football playoffs. If we still accept a 10 percent out-of-stock rate industry wide, then we definitely need to get smarter...Emerging Giants Part 3: Sterling Commerce made a smart decision a few years ago to be a cross-channel champion, and it is paying off in spades. Many new applications are in the works. I predict it will ultimately fill out a fairly comprehensive ERP suite and its deep, new relationship with IBM will likely guarantee it will happen...Free Software: If you don't know Edgenet and its supplier/retailer exchange model then now is the time check it out, especially if you are in hard goods. Edgenet already dominates home improvement and is about to dominate another (can't tell just yet). Now it wants to sign up retailers for free deployment as long as retailers help Edgenet sign suppliers. Cheap is good, but free is better...Timing Is Everything: No one is better positioned to deliver retail applications through SaaS technology than Tomax. Every day I hear from retailers who want to explore SaaS and I hear from vendors who are rolling out more SaaS applications. Tomax has been there and done that for years, and is still way ahead of the curve.
On one hand, I saw so much at NRF that I couldn't get it all into this blog. On the other hand, I missed a million things at NRF. Let me know what you saw and your experiences.
For more NRF 2009 coverage see Big News From NRF's Big Show: 10 Things You Need to Know.