Magazine Article | April 1, 2003

You're Mid-Sized, But Are You An Enterprise?

Source: Innovative Retail Technologies

Small- to mid-sized retailers with plans for growth need look no further than the upcoming Retail Systems/VICS Collaborative Commerce Conference & Exposition.

Integrated Solutions For Retailers, April 2003
Matt Pillar

At what point do you no longer call yourself a small or mid-sized retailer? At what point do you confidently refer in conversation not to your stores, but to your enterprise? Ask 50 growing retailers and you're likely to hear 50 different answers. Is number of stores the measure? Sales? Employees? Total square footage? Perhaps it shouldn't be pinned to any of the above. Perhaps the day your stores become your enterprise is the day you invest in an enterprise-wide retail system. Small- and mid-sized retailers looking for growth partners will find the Small- to Mid-Sized Retailer (SMR) Solutions Center at the upcoming Retail Systems/VICS Collaborative Commerce Conference & Exposition (Chicago, June 9-12) a big help. This pavilion will offer a unique learning experience for small- to mid-sized retail companies looking for technology solutions to make them more efficient, profitable, and competitive. Free educational sessions will include a 30-minute industry overview, followed by a 45-minute panel discussion featuring solution providers specializing in technology designed to benefit retailers with annual sales of up to $500 million. The star-studded lineup will include sessions led by IBM, QRS, UCCnet, VersaPOS, LOG-NET, Manhattan Associates, St. Michael Strategies, NCR, T4G, TCI, and SMRA (Small- to Mid-Sized Retailer Association).

Is The Single Provider Realistic?
It's sometimes argued that a growing, budget-conscious retailer should look for a single provider to cover as many of its core retail functions as possible. The breadth of solution providers with ever-growing product portfolios makes this more possible than it had been in the past. Beyond the convenient advantage of having one point person for support, a single-provider approach will inevitably make it less expensive and quicker to upgrade and develop down the road. While a few major vendors could arguably run a retailer's business soup to nuts, the chances of finding a single, affordable vendor who can do it all (and do it all well) isn't likely. In this case, a best-of-breed approach might be necessary, if not desirable. Many tier-one retailers look for best-of-breed technology because they can afford to. But maintaining several individual systems would break the IT budget of the few-hundred-million dollar and smaller player, leaving nothing left for development.

There's Always The VAR
In the event you can't find one vendor who can give you all you want and can't afford to buy best-of-breed, look to the channel. There just might be a VAR or integrator in your neighborhood with the mix-and-match experience you need. With the development of interoperability standards, these VARs and integrators are becoming easier to find. No matter if it's one vendor or one VAR, IT maintenance and upgrade costs will be easier to swallow with a single point provider.

If your application provider doesn't talk integration, keep shopping. Integrated solutions put data into a central database and allow several applications to pull data from the same. Not only does the availability of data reduce redundant data entry and retrieval, it paves the way for initiatives like CRM (customer relationship management), BI (business intelligence), and ERP (enterprise resource planning) integration. These are technologies you'll find in abundance in the SMR Solutions Center at the Retail Systems/VICS Collaborative Commerce Conference & Exposition. You can find out more about SMR Solutions Center exhibitors and programming by visiting the Integrated Solutions For Ret@ilers Web site at If you're thinking, "Whoa, that stuff's for the big guys," think again. After all, do you run stores, or do you run an enterprise?