NRF 2014: an elevated perspective from the ground floor

Retail’s big show is a must-attend event. For delegates it’s a chance to see the very latest technology trends and get an insight into what’s on the horizon – as well an opportunity to meet with suppliers and partners and network with other retailers. But spare a thought for those of us who were there to work. NRF is a quite different experience when you’re on duty and faced with 30,000+ attendees!

I was manning the Epicor stand at this year’s event. It was fantastic to be busy, but with so many visitors it wasn’t easy to slip away and soak up some of the atmosphere.  I managed, though. And with “elevated perspective” being the theme at what turned out to be the biggest – and arguably best – NRF ever, what was the view from the shopfloor?

First of all, the scale of the event was breathtaking. The official figures show 550+ suppliers, 30,000 visitors, 100 breakout sessions and 300 guest speakers in just 4 days. There were two floors of stands and one thing stood out above all others.

Mobile, mobile, mobile

When I got five minutes to wander around, everyone was demoing on tablets. So we had NCR launching its ICE iPad till, Fujitsu launching mobile POS, and mobile payment solutions galore (PayPal in particular had a massive stand). IBM also launched new mobile solutions at the event and HP showcased its new ‘ElitePad’ mobile POS.

Clearly the tone was: “How can we do mobile?”

Not to be outdone, on the Epicor stand we demoed a new POS which had two tablets! A large one for the main till and a mini one for the customer display.

The breakout sessions included insights into new mobile marketing strategies and a focus on mobile analytics. In fact, along with mobile, analytics was the other key theme – with a lot of people counting and big data tools.

A buzz about retail

The crowds and the theme reflected a feeling that retail was back in fashion. Unlike the last few years – dominated by economic uncertainty and doom and gloom surrounding physical retailing, there was a real buzz this year. It was much busier than in recent years and we even had people there at 6pm on day 2! So much for packing up early and sampling the Big Apple…

Don’t worry, I was able to take in the retail sights of Manhattan. We checked out everything from the new Superdry flagship store in Times Square to classic retail destinations like Macy’s.

What struck me – after the intensity of two days’ retail technology innovation – was how little technology was on show in-store, Macy’s digital signage aside. The tills were still very traditional. It seems, in the States at least, mobile is still at the ‘talking about it’ stage and technology innovation has made much greater practical inroads in the UK and Europe.

Still, it’ll be interesting to see where they are this time next year at NRF 2015!

Darrell Maton, Account Director, BT Expedite

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