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Study Reveals Retailer Priorities

New York —Managing costs, integrating technology, maximizing supply chains, knowing the customer, being different and growing by bringing in new products are key objectives for retailers.

The information revealing what retailers are thinking was presented at the National Retail Federation annual Convention and Expo held last week in New York. The data came from the NRF's annual survey of more than 700 retail executives with 300-plus participants from a wide range of retail formats and sizes. Respondents were asked about strategic initiatives, key technologies, benchmarks and emerging practices.

The session, titled Retail Horizons: Benchmarks for 2004, Forecasts for 2005, was moderated by Scott Hardy, managing director of the retail practice at BearingPoint, and featured Robert Corliss, president of Athlete's Foot Stores.

“As companies reach across the country and world in size, they tend to commoditize the shopping experience and difference their products bring to the table,” he described.

Corliss continued, “There's a real rationalization process among management right now to figure out what they really do right and shape their business plans around it, while outsourcing non-core competencies.”

The survey's top strategic initiatives in order of importance included: customer satisfaction/retention, cost reduction, CRM technology, product differentiation and store expansion.

Priorities showed a shift in 2004 from cost reduction to customer satisfaction, as well as a focus on incremental growth. In addition, merchandising, inventory management and point-of-sale technology were found to be key priorities. Retailers are also embracing multi-channel strategies and trying to develop new in-store experiences.

Nearly 25 percent of respondents said they plan for half of their programs to be private label, more than a third plan to put customer loyalty programs in place, and another third will include bonuses and compensation based on employee customer satisfaction scores.

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