Increased Technology Spending Seen for Retail Sector

IT investments will lend competitive edge to early movers, industry study asserts

IT investments will lend competitive edge to early movers, industry study asserts

New York — January 26, 2004 — Retailers will participate in the surge of business spending expected this year, with investments in information technology lending a competitive edge to early movers, asserts a recent study from the NRF Foundation (NRFF) and systems integrator BearingPoint.

The study, "Retail Horizons: Benchmarks for 2003, Forecast for 2004," found that 83 percent of retailers expect to replace or upgrade point-of-sale (POS) software systems to provide real-time customer information at the time of sale.

This second annual study, which surveyed more than 100 retailers, focused on store and field operations, supply chain, customer relationship management, merchandising, advertising, human capital, information technology and marketing issues.

In analyzing this year's survey data, NRFF and BearingPoint observed that the three currents of change of last year — moving toward greater customer-centricity, traveling along the data-knowledge-action continuum and shifting toward a "boundary-less" business model — were reaffirmed with the addition of a fourth current: the need for retailers to be on a greatly accelerated path to differentiate themselves from the competition.

"With continued momentum in the economy, now is the time for businesses to invest in new technology," said Tracy Mullin, NRF president and CEO. "The retailers who choose to invest today will be rewarded tomorrow."

"As the competition increases, retailers need to figure out how they can differentiate even more," said Scott Hardy, a managing director with BearingPoint's retail/wholesale practice. "Retailers are looking to POS in 2004 to provide real-time information to have a better understanding of the customer."

Other key findings of the study include:

  • Cost containment will be the top priority for 2004;

  • 74 percent of retailers segment their customer base by loyalty and 66 percent by customer preferences;

  • 49 percent cite private label development as a priority;

  • 82 percent list sales associate training as a key initiative;

  • About a third of the respondents will focus on micro-merchandising and multicultural marketing.
The study suggests several approaches retailers can use to differentiate themselves from the competition, including:

  • Leveraging a thorough understanding of the consumer to create unique, differentiated merchandise assortments.

  • Building a brand in an integrated way that resonates.

  • Providing a seamless, multi-channel shopping environment.

  • Building and sustaining a high performance workforce.
The full study is available for sale on the NRF's online bookstore.

The NRF Foundation (NRFF) is the research and education arm of the National Retail Federation. A non-profit foundation created in 1981, the foundation conducts industry research, develops education and workforce development programs, and promotes retailing as a career destination. The National Retail Federation is the world's largest retail trade association.

BearingPoint is one of the world's largest business consulting, systems integration and managed services firms.