January 20, 2005, 12:00 AM

Retail technology vendors report uptick in spending

Many exhibitors at the National Retail Federation show in New York this week said retailers were bullish on technology. “This is the best I’ve seen it since 2000,” said Robert Swinkin, a technology investment briefing specialist for Symbol Technologies.


Many of the 400 exhibitors at the National Retail Federation’s Redefining Retail conference and expo in New York this week said retailers were bullish on technology spending. “This is the best I’ve seen it since 2000,” said Robert Swinkin, who presents technology investment options to potential buyers as an executive briefing specialist for Symbol Technologies Inc., whose portable devices are used to scan products and access web-based information.

Several vendors and other experts pointed to a few major reasons retailers appeared to be ready to spend on technology this year. One reason is that retailers in general had a good year last year and feel confident about spending. Another is that many retailers had planned to spend on projects last year, but aborted those plans due to uncertainty about the economy in an election year and are now ready to proceed. A third reason focuses on the realization among retailers that they can’t wait to upgrade their systems to be competitive with technology that can help operate more cost-efficiently and better customer service.

“It’s tech up or die,” said Richard Weiner, a Miami-based independent consultant who specializes in payment and web-based POS systems.

Sunita Gupta, retail analyst with consultants LakeWest Group, said retailers realize they must operate with systems that help them keep customers happy. “Retailers want to improve their customers’ shopping experience,” she said.

The NRF said 14,000 people attended this month’s show, up 12% from a year ago, growth that helped to drive more traffic to exhibitors and contribute to the increase in booth visitors expressing an interest in technology investment. This year’s attendance also included about 400 international visitors, the NRF said.

Not all exhibitors said they noticed a big increase in booth traffic; some said they thought it was light on the first day due to the Martin Luther King holiday. But nearly all exhibitors contacted by Internet Retailer reported significant rises over last year in both the number of visitors and their level of interest in spending on technology projects.

“Monday was the best first-day of a show I’ve seen in 12 years,” said Dave Bruno, director of product marketing for GERS Retail Systems.

“The pocketbooks seem to be opening up, particularly if it’s for Internet technology,” said Sue Welch, CEO of TradeStone Software, a provider of web-based sourcing software.

“The market is back, it’s time to grow,” said John Marrah, CEO of Ecometry, a provider of POS and other retail operating software systems.


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