INTERNET BUBBLE? The National Retail Federation’s annual convention last month was hopping. Said one executive, “This is like the good old days in the 1990s when the floors were packed.” There were few complaints about lack of retailers, foot traffic or anything else — a first in this century. Two requests to NRF, though. Tell the guards to open the show floor gates on time next year and dispense with the loud marching band, please.
ONE HOT TABLE. Without regard for his own personal safety, Terry Zych, director of information technology at Timberland, pounced on the flames inadvertently set by Federated Department Stores executives during an industry soirée last month. Or was it spontaneous combustion of the bread basket? The mishap, involving a candle situation too near the bread, certainly brings new meaning to the term bread warmer. Both companies — and eight others — were honored for community-service efforts and Zych’s valiant act proved it’s not a 9-to-5 thing at Timberland. The dinner was hosted by Microsoft, Intel and Hewlett-Packard.
RFID NOT JUST FOR GEEKS. Madonna became one of the higher-profile beneficiaries of this emerging technology when she entered the New York Prada store with a must-have in mind. Sadly, the sought-after garment was not in stock. Through radio frequency identification technology, it was swiftly located at another store and shipped to London, where she was headed next.
A STUDY IN CONTRASTS: The sight of naturally natty Claudio Del Vecchio trolling the raucous NRF show floor certainly inspired a double-take. What was the president of Retail Brand Alliance (Adrienne Vittadini, Brooks Brothers, Casual Corner Group and Carolee) doing amid exhibit booths hawking everything from bar-code scanners and time-card systems to power-surge protectors? Del Vecchio was scouting out supply-chain solutions for his company. Nothing is imminent, he cautioned.
CLOSED BUT NOT SHUT OUT. The NRF CIO Council, which hosts a closed-door meeting at each NRF show, won’t share its minutes, but those on the inside whispered the top topics discussed: security and Sarbanes-Oxley. One chief information officer said technology projects are taking 15 to 20 percent longer to implement because of documentation now required by SOX. Post-holiday gift-card redemption also had tongues wagging, as did data-security standards for credit cards and credit and debit card fees.
WHEEL DEAL. All the usual show floor freebies, from key chains to stress balls, were there for the taking. Even the very popular yellow Lance Armstrong “Live Strong” bracelets made a showing, but the best giveaway went to Sam Fried, senior vice president, general counsel and secretary at Limited Brands. Fried’s name was pulled from a hat at the closing session of the show, winning him a Segway Human Transporter. It was not clear whether the two-wheeled, electric-powered device got him to meetings any quicker, as he did not return a phone call.