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Is there room for optimism about the future of retail?

CEO Alexander Rink discusses the future of retail in the context of the 2013 NRF Show

A recent RetailWire discussion question asked the question: How much more or less optimistic are you about the retail industry’s prospects for the coming year? And so I thought I’d try to answer this within the context of having recently attended the NRF Big Show in New York.

First of all, let me preface this post with a quick note that optimism is a function of the person, and I tend to be on the optimistic side! That said, I don’t think anyone could dispute the fact that an attendance rate increase of over 2,000 people between the 2012 and the 2013 show is a promising indicator for the retail industry. Furthermore, the fact that over 1,500 of the attendees this year were from Brazil bodes well for the global retail industry as a whole.

My optimism is also due in part to the fact that the economic outlook for the next few years is, comparatively, more optimistic. Although, there continue to be lingering uncertainties in this area, we are seeing increased consumer confidence and consumer spending. However, consumers have not left all of the habits picked up during the recession behind, and they are more and more engaged in the shopping process, particularly when it comes to shopping technologies. They are more selective and better informed, and retailers will need to respond accordingly.

One of the things that became apparent throughout the show is that even if the industry as a whole is looking promising, not every retailer will share in this success. There is no doubt that there will be a lot of turbulence in the industry going forward, with new retail technologies emerging constantly, and not every retailer will be able to keep pace with this change. The winners will be the ones who are more innovative, and are making changes to better serve the changing tastes and shopping habits of consumers. They will be the ones with the right competitive information, and the ones serving consumers where they want to be served, in the way they want to be served, and with the products and prices they want. All together, the winning retailers will be the ones with the right offering for the customers, in a world where what constitutes the “right” offering is more complicated and multi-faceted than ever before.

In conclusion, I am optimistic about the state of the retail industry as a whole, and look forward to seeing where retail technologies will take it. But, one thing is for certain: we are bound to see a lot of change in this industry, particularly in who is in the game, and how they’re playing it.  And we at 360pi are excited to be a part of the retail industry, and to helping shape it!

About the Author
Alexander is the CEO of 360pi and is a serial web entrepreneur who has led two other Internet SaaS companies to profitability. Prior to that, he used data analytics to optimize profits for retailers as a strategic management consultant at Bain & Company, where he identified and developed programs to serve the top 10% of a retailer's customers that represented 50% of its profits. Alexander brings over 20 years of entrepreneurial, strategic and operational experience to 360pi, with an MBA from INSEAD and a BASc. in Electrical Engineering from the University of Waterloo.