January 15, 2004, 12:00 AM

Retailers are coming out of their budget bunkers, vendors report

The mood among vendors in the exhibit hall at the annual NRF convention in New York City this week was definitely more upbeat than in recent years. “There’s no question pocketbooks are opening,” says Donny Askin, president and CEO of CommecialWare.

Kurt Peters

Executive Editor

The mood among vendors in the exhibit hall at the annual NRF convention in New York City this week was definitely more upbeat than in recent years. “There’s no question pocketbooks are opening,” says Donny Askin, president and CEO of CommecialWare Inc., developer of software for cross-channel retailing. “Not long ago, nobody would buy unless there was a 6- to 12-month ROI. Now people are taking a longer view.” CommercialWare released its new CWLocate product at the NRF convention. That product uses a web-based infrastructure connected to point-of-sale devices to locate inventory anywhere in an enterprise. Askin reports that it marks CommercialWare’s entrance into retailing from its traditional base in direct marketing.

Tilman Estes, senior director, product management for Manhattan Associates, says his company has experienced the same phenomenon of retailers being more interested in buying--and taking the longer view. “IT spending has become very strategic in nature,” he says. Manhattan Associates released a web-based suite of logistics solutions at the conference.

Further evidence of retailers’ renewed interest in technology comes from several vendors who are re-focusing or sharpening their focus on the retail market. Chris Verheuvel, vice president of retail of Manugistics Inc., noted that Manugistics has re-structured to focus on the retail market and now considers retail one of its growth areas.

Similarly, Yantra Corp. has hired a new vice president of retail, Hunter Harris. “This is the first time we are getting out a retail-specific message,” Harris says. Yantra unveiled a POS solution with Triversity Inc. that brings together order management, checkout, inventory management and returns on one platform. Harris says Yantra is experiencing what other vendors have noticed: “If there wasn’t a one-month return, nobody was going to buy,” he says. “Now retailers are thinking more strategically.”

The vendors’ observations were backed up by a study from the NRF Foundation and consultants Bearing Point Inc. which reports a higher level of interest among retailers in technology spending. For instance, 83% of retailers expect to replace or upgrade their POS systems. With continued momentum in the economy, now is the time for businesses to invest in new technology,” said Tracy Mullin, NRF president and CEO. “Retailers who choose to invest today will be rewarded tomorrow.”

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