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By Tammy Mastroberte
In the midst of a recession, retailers gathered in Grapevine, Texas, to trade ideas, network and learn ways to utilize technology at their companies to gain efficiencies and increase the bottom line.
"With the economic situation today, technology is even more important because it can help reduce costs, and can unlock doors for new opportunities," said Jenny Bullard, CIO of Flash Foods of Waycross, Ga., and chairman of the 2009 NACStech Committee.
This year's annual conference examined hot topics such as PCI, loyalty systems and business intelligence software, with PCI once again topping the list of concerns and attendee sessions.
"We had several sessions on PCI this year, and they were all packed," Bullard noted. Even those retailers who are already PCI compliant remain on the lookout for ways to be more efficient and stay compliant, she explained, noting her company met with a new supplier at the show to help them move in that direction.
And for those who are either just beginning the process of PCI compliance or in the midst of it now -- whether in the store or at the pump -- the session "PCI Compliance: Ignorance Is not a Defense," outlined how to get on the right track.
The next focus seemed to be on loyalty, said Bullard, including a session looking at the economics of loyalty programs, where Pat Lewis, partner at Oasis Stop N Go and CEO of Kick Back Rewards, shared a formula for return-on-investment (ROI) projecting at 335 percent ROI from a loyalty program.
Sessions also advised retailers on how to utilize data gathered at the point-of-sale (POS), such as analyzing market basket data -- a topic of growing importance as more retailers scan at their stores.
One session detailed how retailers can utilze POS data to control theft and shrink, where Susan Flynn McLoughlin, senior systems analyst at WILCOHESS LLC, explained the company's use of a "trend book" to capture register information for each cashier so store managers can follow their performance and identify areas where more training is necessary or discover issues of employee theft.
"Fast Forward Profits" was the theme for the 2009 event, and Bullard said she felt the show had more energy compared to last year, as everyone looked for ways to improve their companies with technology in today's economy.
Another change is the amount of non-IT titles attending the show. "In the past it has been an IT department event, but now technology is such an essential part of doing business, we are seeing marketing titles and category managers attending the show because they are using technology more," Bullard said, noting her company sent one of its operations and loss prevention employees because technology has become essential in that position. "We are even seeing more CEO's and CFOs at the show."
Next year, the show moves to New Orleans, and the new NACStech Committee chairman will be Gabe Olives, vice president of IT and petroleum at Turkey Hill Minit Markets in Lancaster, Pa.