Guest Column | January 25, 2010

NRF 2010 - Promising Good Things to Come

Jeff Yelton ScanSource casual

By Jeff Yelton, president, POS & Barcoding Division, ScanSource

This past Sunday through Wednesday I was in New York attending the 99th annual National Retail Federation (NRF) show. The show was well attended with a 30-34% increase over last year. The number of retailers was up and the mood was very positive.

Frankly, I didn't know what to expect. While the AIDC/POS industry has been recovering over the last six months, there is still enough caution to throttle the excitement of a trade show. Nonetheless, The buzz at this show was incredible. People were acting as if there had been no recession. Many of the vendors on the show floor reported brisk response in their booths and networking events. Overall, they were happy with booth traffic in quantity and quality.

There was an air of optimism that was refreshing and, hopefully, will be a sign of a strong 2010 for the industry.

Here are a few observations and trends that I noticed at the show.

First, the observations:

I didn't see an over abundance of new products on the floor, but many vendors said they planned to release a larger than normal set of new products in 2010. According to those vendors, most of the products are will be released after May of this year. Also, the number of new products will center more on peripherals than systems.

There seem to be more than a few 2009 executives missing from the 2010 ranks. This is sad, but seemingly inevitable. The positive side of this trend is that there are a lot of open jobs and, as usual, the industry will play musical chairs to fill the openings. You'll have to move fast to be sure to snag the best jobs; there are a lot of candidates competing with you.

Now for the trends:

Managed Services
Managed services were discussed in most of the software companies' booths I visited. While this is not a new topic, the number of applications moving to the cloud is mind boggling, especially the desire to deliver a cloud based POS solution. I'm skeptical of cloud-based POS solutions because of the need for POS functionality in the store, even if the communication connection fails. While off-line capabilities exist, I'm still not sure a cloud-based POS system is ready for prime time. That being said, it is a trend worth watching.

Near Field Communications and Electronic Payments
Near field communications in electronic payments is going to be a reality. The question is when. Most of the payment terminal manufacturers have the capability to add it to their devices, and some already have, but the retailers have not adopted it yet. This could change rapidly when RFID chips are added to cell phones, but only if there is a cost savings for the retailers from the credit card processing companies.

Digital Signage
While Digital signage is not new, the customer experience with it is improving. I saw an interactive digital signage wall, yes, wall, in the Intel booth. This was not a large flat screen TV mounted on a wall, it was a wall! The intrigue wasn't because of the technology as much as it was the experience. I didn't get a chance to ask the Intel people how much the system cost, but if it's reasonable, it's a technology to watch.

PCI is not new. But what I learned about the adoption of PCI compliance was new to me. It seems that most of the large retailers have made great progress in becoming PCI compliant; tiers two and three customers still have a long way to go, though. I was talking to one person whose customer was still trying to weigh the financial risk of not becoming compliant versus their investment to be compliant.

Overall, the atmosphere at the show seemed to promise that there is still a lot of money to be made from this industry. Good luck in 2010.

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