I’ve been told I walk too fast. I learned this trait running multiple stores over the course of my life. My friends who’ve worked in the trenches of retail call it the “Store Manager Walk”. I walk fast because in a store I had a job to do that required me to be present quickly. I could be helping a customer, cleaning a mess or listening to a teammates concerns. All of it required speed and presence in that moment.
This week at NRF I found myself walking faster than most. As I walked to and from the conference I would weave in and out between people to get where I needed. Once in the conference it was much of the same. It was a steady reminder of those store manager days.
In the world of retail speed is everything. Speed to market, speed to shelf, speedy checkouts. This world is moving at such a fast pace. Even methods of planning and analysis need to be done quickly.
At NRF I counted more than 900 vendors all promising they can help retailers find that speed to win in the market. It is fun to see all the innovation and capabilities coming.
I saw virtual reality devices to train associates and help with customer experience, even better holograms. They had wearables to free your associates hands to work while they receive automated communication through a headset or wristband, Artificial intelligence to help guide or even make decisions for the store. There were cameras galore showing how they monitor and gather data. Robots in every aisle automating processes once done by human hands.
It’s always a really cool show. At times you wonder if some of these things will ever become mainstream or a differentiator in business.
It’s difficult to know who will even be here in the coming years as some markets seem so saturated. I had a fun time asking vendors how their product is better than the 32 other vendors in their category.
I remember reading a Harvard Business article comparing two vendors claiming one had more staying power. Where is that vendor today, not there but the other one remains.
To me the ones that shined were the ones that know that “Store Manager Walk”. They understand the trenches of retail and what it takes to get work done. They know what stores need in order to make their lives and business better. Unfortunately as I weaved through slowly moving vendors and watched tons of demos many didn’t illustrate their knowledge of stores and with it maybe the possibility of selling their products to them.
It is a crazy space with lots of promise. I love being in retail and helping clients figure out which of these products have the ability to make a difference and their business better.