• United States
Executive Editor

Retailers gather for annual association show

Jan 17, 20063 mins
Enterprise ApplicationsRFID

Analytic software aimed at helping retailers more closely match inventory and pricing to customer demand is on display at the annual National Retail Federation (NRF) show, underway this week in New York. In addition, radio frequency identification technology continues to be a popular topic among exhibitors, as retailers seek to fill the gaps in supply chain visibility.

BEA Systems is announcing the launch of its AquaLogic High-Performance Workspace for Retail, a platform designed to help retailers make store operations more efficient and more consistent across multiple properties. The software incorporates portal technology gained in BEA’s August acquisition of Plumtree Software, including notification and task-management features.

BEA’s new software also complements its WebLogic RFID Edge Server and WebLogic RFID Enterprise Server products to provide a full picture of product movement throughout the supply chain and alert corporate, store and distribution managers to any anomalies.

HP is announcing new products and services for retailers, including a joint offering with Cyclone Commerce aimed at helping retail pharmaceutical companies more closely track the distribution of drugs throughout the supply chain and fight counterfeit activity. HP also will launch services for maintaining point-of-sale systems, as well as Web-based software for managing retailers’ online training offerings.

On the hardware front, Symbol Technologies is unveiling a prototype of an RFID-enabled forklift. The lift features an on-board mobile computer and RFID reader so employees can collect and receive supply chain data in real-time, whether they’re in a warehouse, on a loading dock or in a freezer. Symbol designed the forklift systems to work in conjunction with fixed readers, RFID handhelds and warehouse management systems.

For monitoring store settings, Brickstream is demonstrating its latest video-based analytic tools, announced last week. New enhancements include more sophisticated image-capturing capabilities, a new model that combines the camera and analytical software in a single device, and additional reporting options. Brickstream’s video and sensor technology is designed to analyze customers’ activity in stores to help retailers understand browsing and buying habits.

The NRF expects 15,000 attendees and 400 exhibitors at the show, where vendors and retailers alike are recovering from last year’s shopping and gearing up for a new selling season.

Retailers are coming off a busy holiday shopping season. NRF reports consumers spent $438.6 billion in November and December, a gain of 6.4% as compared to 2004 sales. Online sales were particularly strong: ComScore Networks reports online sales between Nov. 1 and Dec. 25 totaled $18.11 billion – a 25% increase over the 2004 holiday shopping period.

Meanwhile, IT vendors are flush from acquisitions of their own. Oracle was among the more acquisitive companies in 2005, landing three retail-focused IT vendors. First on its list was Retek, which Oracle snared after besting SAP in a bidding war for the retail application vendor.

In July, Oracle completed its acquisition of ProfitLogic, which makes software for helping retailers make inventory, pricing and merchandising decisions based on customer demand patterns. Just before the close of the year, Oracle acquired the intellectual property assets of Temposoft, a former workforce management software maker.

Meanwhile, SAP bought pricing optimization vendor Khimetrics; VeriSign bought point-of-sale data provider Retail Solutions; and retail data intelligence vendor PerformanceRetail merged operations with Notiva, which makes trade settlement software.

All this deal-making has analysts questioning the ability of vendors to focus on innovation, rather than integration of newly acquired companies.

AMR Research warns that acquiring vendors need to clarify their plans because retailer customers are worried acquisition bureaucracy will slow delivery of anticipated new functionality. “As a rule, retailers agree that vendor post-acquisition activity and messaging needs improvement,” the firm reports.