Retailers tackle the future shape of their industry

New York — The National Retail Federation Annual Convention was continuing here today. Panelists and speakers cut a broad swath of future trends during the organization's signature seminar series. Here's a short sampling:

-- The NRF is forecasting the further emergence of personalized relationships and experiences between retailers and consumers. A study, "Retail Horizons: Benchmarks for 2002, Forecasts for 2003," was compiled from the responses of approximately 100 leading retailers. Jeff Maness, managing director of consulting firm BearingPoint, which co-sponsored the study, said he sees retailers taking an introspective view as to how they work with and to serve consumers. "They must do basic business processes better," he said, "...and focus more and more on consumers.

-- Integration, accurate information and improvement are the keys to running a successful retail business in today's rapidly changing business landscape.

Des Martin, director of retail industry marketing for Teradata; Dave Bolen, executive vp of merchandising, marketing and logistics for Jo-Ann Stores; and Joe Fabrizio, senior vp/director of stores for Boscov's, all hammered that message home during a session dubbed "Driving the Profit Wedge: The Ultimate Retail Balancing Act."

-- Carl Steidtmann, chief economist of consumer business for Deloitte Research, offered nine steps that must be followed by retailers during inflationary times, each of which involves increased flexibility. The resurgence of the market since the 1980s, ubiquitous technology and the triumph of globalization, Steidtmann said, "are all working together to produce a major change in the business model of retailers. At the heart of that change will be the need to develop new business models to deal with the problem of deflation."

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