In the course of my weekly perusal of the shops on London’s Oxford Street recently, it suddenly struck me how much technology now plays a part of my regular retail-therapy session.
Some technology is obvious: point-of-sales systems ready to snatch my cash; flat-panel displays informing me of all the other bargains that waited in-store; video walls pumping out the latest recreated pop music a little too loudly. But the retail sector is coming under increasing pressure to take a closer look at the less obvious (at least to its customers) technology: back-end systems.
The British Retail Consortium (BRC) said recently that like-for-like retail sales in April were down by 4.7 per cent, the worst monthly fall since the trade body started collating data in 1995.
Kevin Hawkins, director general of the BRC, said: “Retailers are clearly facing an increasingly difficult set of trading circumstances, which are showing no immediate sign of abating.” Sounds frighteningly familiar doesn’t it? The retail sector is following a comparable path to the IT sector, and the time has come for most retailers, be it Top Shop, Sainsbury’s or Marks & Spencer, to try and make sure that less means more.
Having already been down this well-trodden ‘do more with less’ road once or twice before, channel players are perfectly placed to take full advantage of the situation. But heading straight out to retailers brandishing the latest 42in plasma TV is not going to work.
Retailers need help with their supply-chain management and their e-commerce sites, and they need to streamline and organise their IT systems, tasks most channel players will almost certainly have performed, not just in their own businesses, but also in most of their customers’ businesses over the past few years.
VARs need to draw on their own experiences of how to rationalise IT systems using asset management, software licensing tools, security policies and strategic planning to give retailers some badly needed IT therapy.
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