A Memo Re NRF's Recent Convention & Trade Show

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ABA Marketing Director Jill Perlstein provides booksellers with her impressions of the National Retail Federation's (NRF) 92nd Annual Convention & Expo, which was held on January 12 - 15 at New York City's Jacob Javits Convention Center.

The main message of the recent NRF sessions was for retailers to figure out what the customer wants and then to deliver it. The defining title of a new Retail Horizons research study is "Winning the heart of the consumer is the new battleground."

There is tremendous opportunity here for stores with Book Sense because our attributes (character, community, passion, knowledge, and personality) are qualities discussed at all of the marketing sessions I attended. But the key for any business, large or small, is determining what customers want and learning how to promote the relevant benefits of your business. Sessions discussed how chain stores are using database marketing and technology to track what their customers purchase, and how the chains are using this research to forecast what their customers will want.

There was much discussion about consumer motivations and attitudes. The featured speakers did not emphasize price, but, rather, explained that if customers believe that they are getting great customer service, convenience, and quality, and that their needs are being met, they will pay the same or more for a product. It is true, however, that if they can get all that for less money -- that's even better. This is exactly what stores like Wal-Mart and Target claim: "Expect more, pay less."

Many of the sessions also talked about the "experience" of shopping and how retailers are working to create unique environments within their stores to connect with consumers. And, of course, the consistency of experiences, whether in-store, through mail order, and/or online, was viewed as necessary for success.

The other buzz at the convention was about RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) and the METRO store (a grocery store in Germany that utilizes state-of-the-art technology, including RFID, to track customers' purchases and customize the shopping experience.)

ABA members interested in learning more about RFID will find much information on the subject on the Book Industry Study Group Web site at www.bisg.org/news/rfid.html. Correspondingly, there was also discussion about RFID's effect on privacy rights. Information on this subject can be found on the American Library Association's Web site at www.ala.org/ala/oif/ifissues/rfid.htm. And for a look at the store of the future, go to www.future-store.org/servlet/PB/menu/1000154_l2/.

The trade show floor was all about technology -- database management, customer relations management, tracking, integrations, and more.

And, finally, just the names of several of the sessions that I attended serve as directional markers for retail trends today: Innovate or Die; Everything Hispanic: Getting a Grip on Selling to the Fastest Growing Consumer; Gift Card/Certificate: Growth and Profitability: Making a Good Thing Even Better; Know Thy Customer ... Before Someone Else Does; and Meet the Butterflies: The Casualization of Luxury. -- Jill Perlstein