June 29, 2009, 12:00 AM

Don`t wait for recovery to invest in technology

Smart online retailers are not waiting to go into high gear until the economy recovers; they are preparing now.

Smart online retailers are not waiting to go into high gear until the economy recovers; they are preparing now. That’s the message that came through loud and clear at the 2009 Internet Retailer Conference & Exhibition, which, as I write this, wrapped up last week in Boston. From the stage, in the Exhibit Hall, and in casual conversations, the committed retailers who were at the show were talking about what they should be doing now to prepare for the inevitable recovery.

Recessions don’t last forever-even this one. The average length of a recession since the end of the Great Depression has been 13-14 months. We’ve already exceeded that by three or four months, so the law of averages is trending our way for a recovery.

Other indicators are that things are getting better. The Conference Board’s Consumer Confidence Index shot up remarkably-now at 54.9 from the trough in the low 20s in February-and the NPD Group reports that in May, for the third month in a row, consumers increased their intent to purchase goods.

Some segments of consumers are still cautious and we haven’t turned the corner yet-unemployment will probably rise for a few more months even as job losses decline-but it appears that many retailers at the conference are concluding that this recession is reaching its end and they want to be in a position to benefit when the recovery gets under way.

Many were on the prowl at the Internet Retailer Conference for technology that will help them succeed. Many of the 368 exhibiting companies told me booth traffic was non-stop from the opening of the Exhibit Hall at 4 p.m. on Monday, June 15, until it closed at 4:30 p.m. on Wednesday. Several technology and service providers told me they had been engaged for projects that the client wanted to start that very same week. And a retailer told me that he had signed up for the services of two exhibitors while he was at the show.

In 10 years of publishing Internet Retailer and five years of holding the Internet Retailer Conference & Exhibition, I have never before heard of such urgency.

In addition, the conference’s Technology Track was well attended. Bill Mirabito of B2C Partners, who moderated a panel discussion on Build, Buy or Lease, said, “We had an impressive crowd and almost no one left the room.”

So this year’s annual Internet Retailer Buyers Guide comes at a timely moment. We’re happy to place in retailers’ hands the most comprehensive directory of solution providers to the online retailing industry. This issue is the culmination of a year of data gathering by Cindy Wilkins, our classified advertising manager, who does a fabulous job of contacting companies for inclusion in the book and gathering information about them.

All vendors to this industry get a free listing in this issue. Our intent is to provide our readers with everything they need from the 600 companies here to succeed in the coming recovery.

Those who have made a larger commitment than others to serving this industry are represented by enhanced listings and display ads. Like the retailers who are buying, they are the vendors who recognize that they need to be in front of their clients and prospective clients before the recovery begins. They are the forward-looking solutions providers who know that if they wait until the recession is declared officially ended, it will be too late.

Whether you are a retailer or a solutions provider, we hope you are one of the success stories of 2009 and 2010.

kurt@verticalwebmedia.com

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