From The Editor | August 17, 2012

Retail Hardware, Distributor Execs Share ‘State Of The Industry'

The Industry Vision Panel discussion at RetailNOW 2012 attracted approximately 450 retail IT executives and covered a wide range of channel topics. This year the panel was divided into two segments, a hardware-focused group and a software focused group.

This excerpt includes the hardware-focused panel’s “state of the retail IT industry” from their individual perspectives. The hardware-focused panelists included:

  • Steve Cuntz, Chairman/CEO, BlueStar
  • Ted Clark, Global Business Partner Channel Leader, IBM Retail Store Solutions division (now part of Toshiba Global Commerce Solutions)
  • Paul Constantine, President, ScanSource POS/Barcoding
  • Ray Carlin, VP and General Manager, HP Retail Store Solutions Global Business Unit
  • Justin Scopaz, General Manager and VP, Ingram Micro Data Capture/POS division
  • Moderator: Jim Roddy, President, Jameson Publishing and Business Solutions magazine

RetailNOW was held July 29-Aug. 1 at Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas. For more information on RetailNOW 2012, including more excerpts from the Industry Vision Panel, go to

Jim Roddy, BSM: Talk about the landscape you’re seeing today in the retail IT industry. Give us the state of the industry from your perspective.

Steve Cuntz, BlueStar: As we talked about last year, we see the continuation of retail getting closer to the customer. We are seeing more mobile applications, more cloud-based applications. We are seeing slightly different form factors of hardware being used to accomplish that. And the retail industry is trying to get more in tune, from what we have seen, with the way that their customers shop. A young buyer today is sophisticated. They do a lot of online research before they purchase something, so I believe the retail industry is trying to position themselves to take advantage of that.

Ted Clark, IBM (Toshiba): Steve nailed it. That's exactly what we see. And if I could sum it up in one sound bite, the nightmare that keeps retailers up at night is that they do not want to be the showroom for Amazon. They really want to go focus on the consumer, make that consumer experience very enjoyable and have value.

The consumer wants to interact with the retailer either in the store or through the web or through social media or through a call center, and they want the retailer to recognize the relationship they have regardless of the channel that they're operating in. Most of them, I think it's about 70%-75% of people, will operate with a retailer in multiple channels. They don't want the consumer coming in, shopping around, and then all of a sudden going out and trying to see where the cheapest price is.

Paul Constantine, ScanSource: One of the things that I've noticed after coming back into this industry after spending three years in the security and surveillance business – and I think Jim's question really summarized it. He said “retail IT”; he didn’t say “POS.” We talk about where there's mystery there's margin, and it seems like the mystery in retail stores is moving away from the point of sale. There’s still some, but it's moving away from the point of sale and is transitioning into other areas of the retail IT experience. And the demand that places on the reseller channel is great. It's tough when you have to make that transition from being a point of sale reseller to a retail IT consultant and expert.

Ray Carlin, HP: Just maybe to vector off a little bit to an overall industry perspective, when you think about where we were a year ago, certainly we've seen a lot of change. There have been a number of supplier changes. I predict that trend will continue and we’ll see some further consolidation. From the retailer perspective, we see more effort on the part of retailers who use technology as a differentiator. So how do retailers look at IT, whether it's POS signage or mobile devices? How did that serve the customer the way the customer wants to be served? And how can technology help make that a different experience than perhaps their competitors? So, it's really also using technology as a weapon.

Justin Scopaz, Ingram Micro: I agree with everything that everyone said, and want to build off a point that Paul made. We're seeing a lot of the traditional VARs dealing with retail within the POS space starting to adopt adjacent technologies. Paul mentioned that you not only service POS for your retailer but also other IT products. So that's a trend that we're seeing significantly increase over the last year since we've had the panel last time.