450 attendees representing retailers, brands and service providers came together for the Retail Value Chain Federation's Annual Fall Conference, held November 2-5, 2014 at the JW Marriott Scottsdale Camelback Inn Resort & Spa in Scottsdale, AZ. As always, the goal of the conference was to facilitate collaboration between retailers and suppliers and discuss ways to move the industry forward, focusing on inventory visibility and integrity and supplier performance.
In addition to 60 educational programs and a number of breakout sessions, the Fall Conference hosted 624 retailer-supplier one-on-one meetings in four days. These sessions truly reflect the mission of RVCF, providing trading partners with the opportunity to better understand each other's needs, review performance, resolve issues and build stronger relationships. Many attendees pointed out that the conference also allowed them to reduce travel time and expenses because they were able to schedule one-to-one meetings with multiple trading partners during a single trip.
Omni-channel retailing continues to be a hot topic as retailers and suppliers seek to provide consumers with a seamless shopping experience across all channels. Of course, item level radio frequency identification (RFID) is critical to omni-channel. Dr. Bill Hardgrave, Dean and Wells Fargo Professor, Harbert College of Business, Auburn University and founder of the RFID Research Center, led a number of sessions about RFID and pointed out that omni-channel success is likely to be limited without the inventory accuracy and visibility provided by RFID.
Dr. Hardgrave joined Patrick Javick, Industry Development, Apparel & General Merchandise at GS1 US; Michelle Covey, Director, Industry Engagement at GS1 US; and Sue Hutchinson, Director, Portfolio Strategy at GS1 US for the GS1 US RFID Adoption Workshop. This hands-on, educational workshop showed attendees how to deploy item level RFID, including best practices, technical considerations, and building a business case for implementation.
We focused on omni-channel in numerous sessions, discussing topics such as:
Buy online, pick-up in store
Reserve online, try on in store
Same day delivery
We also identified the need to explore best practices for drop shipping in order to maximize financial performance. RVCF will work with members to develop a mutually acceptable agreement between retailers and suppliers that enables all partners to gain in margin. Details on a study will be announced in early 2015.
Another growing area of concern is the shipping of merchandise to European retailers. Size conversions, inconsistent labeling and other issues are causing problems for domestic brands. RVCF will be looking for ways to bring together U.S. suppliers and European retailers in order to reduce errors and inefficiencies in the supply chain.
Other conference highlights included:
A Panel Discussion on Retail Product Images and Attributes
Michelle Covey of GS1 US kicked off the session with an overview of current standards and those being developed by GS1 US in collaboration with participating retailers, suppliers, and service providers. Coby Sparks, CIO/COO at Remac Group, and Leslie Montgomery, Vendor Relations Manager at New Era Cap, Co. Inc., shared valuable insights about how their companies have implemented these standards. All three panelists encouraged suppliers to look into this important initiative now in order to protect their bottom lines and their brands.
RVCF will continue to partner with GS1 US to promote the adoption of standards for product images and attributes and develop workshops that demonstrate business processes and the flow of information, both internally and with trading partners.
Supplier Open Forum
This much-anticipated discussion was based on questions submitted by merchandise suppliers before the conference. With topics ranging from order fulfillment to payment reconciliation, attendees shared their expertise and real world experiences with their peers in an engaging, educational session.
Questions that were not addressed due to time constraints will be discussed during the Supplier Open Forum Conference Call on December 12, 2014. We encourage suppliers to register and participate in the call.
Keynote with Doug Stephens, founder of Retail Prophet
One of the world's foremost retail and consumer futurists, Mr. Stephens delivered an incredible keynote that debunked the myths that retail is dead and brick-and-mortar stores are becoming irrelevant. Although shopping behaviors and traditional marketing have been changed by the emergence of omni-channel retailing, Mr. Stephens predicts consumers will continue to frequent brick-and-mortar stores for the social interaction and entertainment they provide. He challenged retailers and suppliers to "make shopping fun again," reinvent the in-store experience, take risks and engage consumers in ways that not only attract them to the store, but keep them coming back.
Collaboration Requirements for Success in an Omni-Channel World
Dr. Chris Petersen, CEO of Integrated Marketing Solutions, followed the keynote with a presentation on how metrics and data should be used by retailers and suppliers in order to take advantage of the change in consumer behavior resulting from omni-channel. While many retailers and brands have embraced social media, the majority have not been able to fully leverage the data social media provides. Mr. Petersen showed how some innovative companies have made social media work in their favor by analyzing and interpreting the data differently.
We at RVCF would like to thank everyone who attended and participated in the Annual Fall Conference. The level of enthusiasm among our attendees and the genuine desire to work together to solve problems continue to motivate and inspire us. We look forward to building on this momentum in 2015 and beyond!
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