Thursday, March 1, 2007

The Retail Technology Adjunct

An invitation to speak at the Fashion Institute of Technology, a school in New York City, reminded me just how much I enjoy covering retail technology.

My long-time friend and industry comrade, Frank Riso, senior director, retail operations, for Motorola’s retail industry solutions group, based in Holtsville, N.Y., is finishing his second semester as an adjunct at FIT. When I joined Chain Store Age a year ago, Frank asked if I would be a guest speaker for his “Current Technology in the Fashion Industry” class. Flattered, I accepted.

The graduate class is comprised of 18 students—both male and female. Some are aspiring designers, others want to be buyers or merchandisers. Still others are furthering already-thriving careers in fashion. All students attend to learn how captured product data can further their role in the fashion industry.

Eager to engage last night’s class, I tried to keep my presentation fun. I decided to focus on different solutions that are shaping the customer experience and the retailers that “get it.”

Based on the many questions and statements I received throughout my presentation however (which ranged from “What chains are the top IT users?” “Why don’t retailers do it differently?” to “I don’t agree that technology is the ideal way to run a retail business”), it quickly became clear that I needed to teach my audience the golden rule of retail technology—technology is merely an enabler to improve business operations. Without senior management buy-in, or an educated store-level sales force, technology solutions (especially customer-facing solutions) are nothing more than an expensive investment.

Many thanks to Frank for providing me with my first “adjunct” opportunity, as well as to the class for engaging me in a lively conversation that kept me on my toes. I look forward to chatting with them (and hopefully writing about their companies) in the future.

—By Deena M. Amato-McCoy

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