The Accelerated Analytics team had the opportunity to attend “The Big Show” today in New York City. If you are not familiar with the show, this is the annual trade exposition sponsored by the National Retail Federation. Overall, the show is a good source of industry news and provides an opportunity to spend time learning about new technologies and vendors in the market. The show floor can be a bit overwhelming, with thousands of vendors. This year, we were struck by the number of empty booth spaces as compared to prior years. It would seem the declining attendee rate has impacted the NRF like most organizations, although this is still a very big show. It is very hard to gauge who is attending, but we had the opportunity to talk with representatives from Gap, Jo-Ann Stores, The Andersons, Wal-Mart, and saw many other retailers, so it seems the usual suspects are in attendance. It does seem most of the attendees are part of the IT, store operations, or supply chain teams. One conversation we had with a fairly good sized retailer regarding their supply chain vendor collaboration was a bit surprising. This vendor told us they make weekly product activity data available to their suppliers, but only a handful really use the information. This was a surprise because, as we work with vendors, most tell us the opposite is true – they request the data, but their retail partners are not filling that request. In fact, something in between is probably true. Our experience tells us retailers are generally making the data available, but in many cases, not in the format the vendor would like to receive, so they are challenged to do much with it. This is unfortunate since there is much that can be done with the data. Hopefully, more productive programs will be put in place in 2007.
If you are in NYC and have the opportunity to attend the show, make time to visit the Microsoft booth. (full disclosure, we are a MSFT partner) Their booth is huge and filled with solutions for every aspect of a retail operation. The representatives working the booth are overly technical, but if you ask questions about their client work, they can provide some very interesting tid-bits of information. We especially enjoyed our conversation with the Project Real team. If you want to learn about how a huge data warehouse is deployed at a real customer, you need to check that out.
We dropped our cards into most of the fishbowls we found, so maybe we will win something:)