On site: NRF show in New York

January 12, 2009 by Dave Haynes

I am at the National Retail Federation Big Show in New York, an annual mega-show aimed squarely at the retail ops people who buy stuff like POS systems.

There was considerable, entirely rational concern that this show would be painfully quiet because of the economic problems out there and what was a wickedly bad fourth quarter for many retailers in the US and Canada.

There are 50 fewer vendors and about 500 fewer booth monkeys, but there’s still some 530 vendors here showing their shiniest pots and pans and at least 11,000 attendees and probably more like 15,000 with last minute registries.

The foot traffic doesn’t look too bad.  While there are some very quiet areas, with guys forlornly pecking away at the smart phones, some of the areas were really busy, and the booth-mongers I talked to described activity as decent.

The dominant guys at the show are HP, Dell, IBM, Cisco – any companies selling IT and services into retail. There’s a big wash of companies  that do … something.

Of the stuff I know, digital signage companies have a presence, but are more sprinkled here and there. Netkey, Ronin, Adflow, Stratacache and DT Research have booths (and maybe some others), but none other than DT and Stratacache are what I’d call substantial.

What I did see, all over  the place, were companies with shelf-edge screens running video, often married with price-checking systems. And there are a lot of interactive, kiosk-y kinds of screens.

I spent some time with some guys from Agilysis, which does IT services and has been working on some interesting stuff with the Bi-Lo grocery chain. They have portrait mode screens with touch, laser bar code scanners and printers bundled in, so that shoppers can walk up to these things (installed in about 7 stores in the US southeast), and look up products, locate them on a floor map, check their loyalty card account and press a button to call for help, which will send a store associate over to where the screen is fixed.

I did not have a lot of chance to look too closely at many booths, but now that I have had a first pass, I’ll have a chance to take a second, closer look at some things that caught my eye.

Some random observations:

It’s really great when trade shows provide water from people. There were tables all over the place, and it  was freely available. Most shows I go to, they charge you, and charge you big.

There actually are nice parts to Newark Airport … and the new Continental terminal is positively tranquil. Glad I fought NOT to go in and out of Laguardia. 

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