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Covering Retail IT from All the Angles

BY Dan Berthiaume

It is with great pleasure that I introduce myself to you as the new senior editor of Chain Store Age, focused on covering all the news, trends and happenings in the constantly changing world of retail IT. Technology is evolving at a breakneck pace with major implications for retail. Emerging technology areas such as mobile, social and cloud are changing the very nature of customer experience, while the explosion of Big Data offers both a major challenge and opportunity for retailers that can successfully harness the immense of volume of information that is now available.

Meanwhile, the full potential of RFID technology continues to elude most retailers a decade after it first became widely available, and of course traditional systems managing core areas of the retail enterprise such as warehousing, distribution, inventory management and POS are still of vital importance. And everything has to run on some type of infrastructure. Complex? Yes. But also exciting. And when managed correctly, IT has the power to transform retail organizations into highly effective and efficient operations that maximize revenues while providing customers with the products they want, when and where they want them.

Some of you may recognize my name. I spent eight years spanning the late 1990s to the mid-2000s editing a variety of retail publications for RSAG, and since that have time have also spent stints covering retail IT for publications such as EWeek and Retailer Daily. But I am now fully re-entering the world of retail IT journalism with Chain Store Age, the pre-eminent retail trade publication, and I plan to be here for a long, long time.

Many things have changed since the mid-2000s, but the underlying business needs that drive retail technology adoption have stayed the same. I entered the field at a time when “e-commerce” was still a unique, separate niche of retailing. Now selling items online is a routine activity that almost every retailer beyond the mom-and-pop category engages in. Social and mobile are still new and relatively siloed areas today, but undoubtedly over time will become enmeshed within the broader retail enterprise just like e-commerce did. Cloud is the hot new infrastructure today, while client-server infrastructure was sweeping the industry in the mid-to-late 1990s.

The point is that retailers are always looking for ways to more effectively provide consumers with desired goods at an affordable cost while earning a fair profit. My role is to illustrate how technology can help retailers accomplish this goal. And it doesn’t matter whether that technology is the latest, greatest 21st century innovation or a thin client POS terminal – if it helps retailers do their jobs better and generate higher revenues, it’s worthy of coverage.

I look forward to covering everything going on in retail IT in the days, weeks, months and years to come. And I consider my job to be a partnership with the industry I cover – please feel free to contact me with comments, suggestions, critiques, news items or anything else you think I should know about. Email me at [email protected] or find me on Twitter at @DanBerthiaume1. I can’t wait to hear from you.


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News

Suppliers honored at AutoZone Vendor Summit

BY CSA STAFF

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — AutoZone recognized Spectra Premium Industries as its Vendor of the Year during the company’s annual AutoZone Vendor Summit held in Tunica, Miss.

"Spectra has been a strong AutoZone supplier for more than five years. During that time they have collaborated with us to grow sales and improve productivity in the categories they supply us," said Bill Rhodes, chairman, president and CEO of AutoZone.

AutoZone also recognized suppliers Bosch, IDQ, Kraco, Lozier Corporation, Madix, Inc., PEX Automotive, Shell Lubricants and Dorman Products, Inc. with the company’s Extra Miler Award.

"These Extra Miler suppliers set the standard for their innovative thinking, category management skills, quality merchandise and commitment with AutoZone to grow the business together," said Mark Finestone, SVP of merchandising.

Additionally, What It Takes to Do the Job Right awards were given to suppliers for making sure AutoZoners and customers have what it takes to complete their jobs. WITTDTJR award winners included Anchor Industries, Inc., BP Castrol, CRC Industries, Pilot Automotive, Inc., Retail Insights LLC, Standard Motor Products, Inc. and Titan.

AutoZone is a leading retailer and distributor of automotive replacement parts and accessories in the United States. Each store carries an extensive product line for cars, sport utility vehicles, vans and light trucks, including new and remanufactured automotive hard parts, maintenance items, accessories and non-automotive products. Many stores also have a commercial sales program that provides commercial credit and prompt delivery of parts and other products to local, regional and national repair garages, dealers, service stations and public sector accounts.

As of February, AutoZone sells auto and light truck parts, chemicals and accessories through 4,735 AutoZone stores in 49 U.S. states plus the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico and 334 stores in Mexico and one store in Brazil.

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OPERATIONS

Top real estate and store development exec leaves J.C. Penney

BY Marianne Wilson

New York — Another Ron Johnson-appointee and former Apple executive has left J.C. Penney. Ben Fay, who was brought as EVP real estate, store design and development, has left the company, according to the Dallas Morning News. Returning to Penney in an advisory capacity is the chain’s former senior VP of property development, Tom Clerkin, who took early retirement from the company last year, the report said.

Fay, who served as senior director of retail real estate, design and development at Apple, joined Penney in spring 2012. At the time, then-CEO Johnson stated: "Ben is an incredibly creative professional with extraordinary leadership skills. Having worked with him over the last 12 years, I am delighted to see Ben step into this new role at jcp. His design influence has made the Apple stores highly regarded retail destinations around the world, and I am excited to have Ben place his own mark on jcp as we re-imagine the J.C. Penney store of the future."

In the weeks since Johnson left Penney, several of his key appointees — also former Apple execs — have left, including Dan Walker, chief talent officer, and Michael Kramer, COO.

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