UK Retailing Conference Notes


I’ve just got back from the BT Expedite Client Conference (BT Expedite are our UK partner/distributor). Although the event is smaller than the Epicor Retail Perspectives (4th to 7th October in Montreal… I look forward to seeing you there!), they do a terrific job of executing the event, with a good combination of session content, networking opportunities among the retailers, and generating great conversation even outside the formalities. They also do a great job attracting me there in addition to the above because…

A. It’s held at a conference centre with a golf course, and
B. The beer is delicious.

Seriously, as an exported Brit, it was really interesting to see the UK perspective on the current issues, most notably around:

A. The economy, and
B. Multichannel

A. Economy
In some respects, the economic downturn has hit the UK harder than this side of the pond. They did have the mortgage scenario where banks were lending beyond their means, but the credit crunch has sent a ton of businesses under just because they could not renew their previously well managed debt. Companies more than capable of employing good people, and producing good results, just disappear in an instant when the debt renewal cycle came around. “The High Street” (UK term for retailers in general) has taken a hit, with some well known names now no longer around. I grew up with Woolies (to read Woolworths) being a part of the retail fabric of the UK… now… gone! OK… it’s not all doom and gloom. Trading is tough, but now there’s talk of the ‘green shoots of recovery’ and in some cases, the retailers are even doing well!

B. Multichannel
There’s an evolving lexicon of generic multichannel terms appearing since I left the UK (how dare they). Terms like “Click & Collect” enabling websites to interact with stores and reserve merchandise at the store that is pre-payed on the web. “Click & Reserve” enables the same, but still some paying to do in the store. It certainly seems that, in some respects, the UK is a little ahead of us here, especially if generic terms are now out there. (Try Googling “Click and Collect” and you’ll see that it’s all UK stuff.  

The concentration over here is a little more in the direction of ‘where can I source it?’ and ‘ship it to me’. (Assuming they can’t just get it online and have it shipped direct without any store interaction). It could be a more efficient (read… cheaper) shipping cost per mile, and perhaps something to do with the geography being ‘a little larger’ requiring more concentration on the logistics of getting goods to the customer whatever the method rather than a concentration on the customer coming into the store… or it could be that I’m now eating too much pizza when I should be cycling to my local store to pick it up rather than scouring the web for ‘free shipping’ deals. Anyway (product plug)… our Enterprise Selling solution is right in the middle of all of this and is really making its presence felt in some big retailers.

Take a look:  

OK… an extra REALLY COOL bit to the conference was a session on the use of social media tools to augment websites, blogs and client communication. “DK” from a company called Mediasnackers did a session on the evolution of social media, making me feel REALLY old as I remember the start of ALL of the history timeline. He then started grabbing free stuff from his web favorites to show how EASY it is to make your communications look really cool, including … : To start your blog INSTANTLY using this site, owned by Google. I already knew this one, using Blogger with my golf buddies. : To easily include slide shows and video in your blog. : The future of magazines online, with a very nice Apple Mac style page browser. : Online brainstorming with your colleagues replacing the whiteboard!
And… a friend of his starting a text message polling service. UK only, but getting polls embedded in your communication would be very cool!

Look out for me sneaking other media content into future blogs (if I’m allowed!)

Finishing with the initial personal attractions at the conference… The golf was not so good, but the beer made up for it, but all paled in comparison to the quality time with like-minded folks passionate about our chosen profession!

Posted by Duncan Taylor, Director of Product Management, Epicor  


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