NRF Annual 2009 Coverage

by Deepak Sharma on Wednesday, January 14, 2009

For all those who are not able to go to the NRF Annual Convention (which is currently on, Jan 11-14), here are few links which gives the dope on the big things being announced/discussed in the convention.

-- NRF's event blog – Covers Q&As with speakers, show highlights etc.

-- A lot of news coming from Microsoft, 1. Accenture, Avanade and Microsoft Announce Multi-Channel Retail Initiative, 2. Microsoft Releases Windows Embedded POSReady 2009, 3. Microsoft launches The Retail Experience Center. You can read other Microsoft NRF related stories here, Microsoft Retail: Press Materials.

-- Member blog – Good coverage of the convention, some recent topics discussed included Digital Retailing , Investing in E-Commerce in 2009.

Microsoft Tag – Endless possibilities for Retailers

by Deepak Sharma on Sunday, January 11, 2009

In the recently conducted Consumer Electronic Show, Microsoft launched Microsoft Tag, real innovative concept to connect mobile barcodes (or tags) on physical objects to online content (opening mobile content, videos, music, contact information, promotions etc). The tag appears as shown below (this one will tag you to my blog, Retail Technology Blog).


From Microsoft Tag website:

Microsoft Tag creates unlimited possibilities for making interactive communications an instant, entertaining part of life. They tranform physical media (print advertising, billboards,product packages, information signs, in-store merchandising, or even video images)—into live links for accessing information and entertainment online.

With the Microsoft Tag application, just aim your camera phone at a Tag and instantly access mobile content, videos, music, contact information, maps, social networks, promotions, and more. Nothing to type, no browsers to launch!

The sophisticated technology powering Microsoft Tag, High Capacity Color Barcodes (HCCBs), was invented by Microsoft Research. It was designed from the ground up for maximum performance with the limited cameras on most mobile phones. Advanced image-processing techniques decode even out-of-focus barcode images, which means Microsoft Tag works with the fixed-focus camera lenses common in most mobile devices.

The advanced computer imaging of HCCBs employs different symbol shapes in geometric patterns and multiple colors to provide more information in less space.

The possibilities are endless for retailers, consider the following scenarios:

-- You go to a store and check out a box of cereals, you see Microsoft tag on the box, you use your Mobile phone Microsoft Tag Reader and you could be shown promotion around the box, you can compare prices with other brand of cereals etc.

-- You go to a store and check out Morningstar Farms Maple Flavored Sausage Patties box and using Microsoft Tag Reader app on your iPhone you are taken to the MSN Chef to the rescue website and are shown Recipes around the product. You are also shown the nutrition information about the product. This will ensure that you buy other ingredients along with the product for the recipe you just decided.

-- You buy a Laptop from Electronics and see a Microsoft Tag on the backside of Laptop. You click it using Microsoft Tag Reader app on your mobile and voila, you just registered your Laptop. You may also be shown the accessories you can buy for your laptop.

These are just few uses I could think on top of my head, there could be 100’s of such scenarios both offline and online. I definitely see Microsoft Tags being targeted by Retailers soon. You can try the app out, here,

Holidays over, now comes the returns

by Deepak Sharma on Sunday, January 04, 2009

With holiday season over and most of the purchases done, now comes the time when consumers are expected to return holiday purchases. And to make it worse, this time it will be more than the usual.

Returned merchandise in 2008 is expected to make up 8.7% of overall sales, up from 7.3% in 2007, according to retail trade group National Retail Federation.

It will be weeks before most retailers disclose the size of their holiday returns. However, a survey of 1,000 shoppers conducted on Christmas found a whopping 86% of parents said that if their children didn't love their gifts, they would take them back for a refund or exchange, says America's Research Group, a consumer research firm.

The Charleston, S.C., firm predicts returns and exchanges during the week after Christmas would rise 50% over the same period a year earlier.

Another reason that analysts expect higher return rates is that some retailers relaxed their return polices this year to boost their appeal to jittery consumers. More than half of the 82 major retailers that the NRF surveyed in November said their holiday return policies were more lenient this season. In 2007, that was the case for only 35% of retailers that the NRF surveyed.

J.C. Penney Co., for example, allows returns for customers without a receipt if they present the credit-card used to make the purchase. Target Corp. gives customers gift cards for items up to $35 without a receipt, up from $20 last year.

CBSNews also carried a segment on Retail Returns, check the video below:

So what do Retailers do in such a scenario? Multichannel Merchant has a list of do’s and don’ts on exactly the same, Making the Most of Retail Returns.

Related: Stores loosen policies to make it easier to return holiday gifts

India’s Wal-Mart sailing through difficult times

by Deepak Sharma on Saturday, January 03, 2009

Kishore Biyani’s Future Group seems to be buoyant and is expecting all store formats to do well in current quarter.

“I don’t see a problem in this quarter. February and March are traditionally good months for us and with interest rates coming down, we hope to do well (in the quarter),” Future Group chief executive officer Kishore Biyani said.

With regard to Future Retail, Biyani said October and November were “two good months” for them in terms of sales. Then in December, it announced the three-week long Great Indian Shopping Festival, which would end on 4 January.

The Big Bazaar brand of Future Group has resonated well with the consumers for both in terms of price and value, qualities which is making Wal-Mart thrive in the downturn.

Worst Holiday Performance since 1970

by Deepak Sharma on Thursday, January 01, 2009

In what turns out to be worst holiday performance since 1970, International Council of Shopping Centers, says that based on its estimate sales in the week ended Saturday fell 1.8% below year-earlier levels, it now expects same-store sales in December to decline by at least 1%.

Discounts Fail to Save Retailers' Holiday - (registration reqd)

The outlook for many retailers, however, is even worse. Excluding the results of discount giant Wal-Mart Stores Inc., which has been outperforming its rivals, sales at stores open at least a year -- a key barometer of retail performance -- could fall as much as 8% below year-earlier levels, according to Michael P. Niemira, chief economist at the shopping-center group.

The ICSC expects December same-store sales to decline by 11%, 10% and 8% at J.C. Penney Co., Kohl's Corp. and Target Corp. respectively, compared with an increase of 3% at Wal-Mart.

The industry's poor performance in December follows an even more dismal November, when same-store sales at retailers tracked by the ICSC fell 2.7%, the biggest monthly drop since the group began recording year-to-year changes in sales in 1970.

The only silver lining, Wal-Mart outperforming other Retailers.

Happy New Year 2009 !!

by Deepak Sharma

Here’s wishing all the readers of this blog, a Very Happy and Prosperous New Year 2009 !! Hope this year brings cheers to all Retailers and Consumers and we all learn quickly to be recession proof.