Vendors court the retail industry at New York show

Software vendors announced a raft of new products for the retail industry at the start of a big retail industry event in New York

Microsoft and IBM were among the vendors pitching new software at the start of the National Retail Federation's 96th Annual Convention and Expoits, the retail industry's biggest annual conference in New York.

The big platform vendors, which also include SAP and Oracle, have a greedy eye on the retail market, where they see potential for significant growth as retailers try to expand their online initiatives and reduce operational costs. They are trying to muscle in on specialty vendors with promises of better integration with back-end systems, and improved ease of use, management and security.

Many of the vendors, big and small, say their products can help retailers move more customers through their stores, merge online and offline operations and manage inventory better. Their offerings include point-of-sale terminals, customer management software and tools for running better e-commerce sites. Following are some of the products announced at the conference:

-- Microsoft, First Data and HP teamed up to offer an all-in-one point-of-sale (POS) and payment processing system for small, single-store retailers. Called the First Data POS Value Exchange, it's a PC-based system that comes with Microsoft's new Point of Sale 2.0 software, which includes inventory management and sales tracking; First Data's credit card processing service, and HP's retail-focused rp5000 PCs. The system could be leased or purchased and was being rolled out in the US starting this month, a First Data spokesperson said. Pricing wasn't immediately available. More information is at http://www.posvaluex.com/.

-- For bigger retailers, Microsoft launched version 2.0 of its Dynamics Retail Management System (RMS). The update makes it easier to manage complex inventory and create purchase orders, and also supports newer hardware, according to Microsoft. RMS starts at $US1190 for each lane in a single store.

-- Lawson Software announced the availability of QuickStep Fashion, a version of its ERP suite for the apparel, footware, textiles and accessories industries. The software handles industry needs like managing wide product ranges with short lifecycles, according to Lawson, and preconfigures "70 to 90 per cent of the key processes required by companies in the fashion industry". Pricing was not announced.

-- IBM announced a new version of its 4690 POS operating system with better security, an update to its remote store management software and enhancements to its SurePOS 500 POS systems that are designed to make them easier to service. IBM also announced that retailers Circuit City Stores and Sears Holdings would be joining it on its virtual island in Second Life to do marketing and e-commerce experiments.

-- Datavantage announced upgrades to most of its retail products. Release 3 of its Xstore Java POS software includes location-based inventory management, which it said was useful for jewelers and large department stores. An update to its Tradewind Retail POS for high volume, large format stores comes with employee fingerprint scanning to replace password logins, and the ability to assign return offender status to help deter fraudulent returns. The company, which acquired CommercialWare on January 1, also announced the Datavantage/CommercialWare Integrated Suite, including POS, merchandising, retail CRM and loss prevention software. It is due to ship in the second quarter priced at $6000 per store, excluding the preconfigured hardware that's offered with it. The company also introduced CWSerenade, a Java-based product for managing customers across online and offline channels. The software includes order management, customer service and fulfillment capabilities and is an evolution of CommercialWare's CWDirect product. Switching to Java gives customers more choice about where they can run the software. Initial versions are for a SQL database with the JBoss application server, DB2 database with IBM Websphere, or on IBM's System i5. CWSerenade is available now starting at $US125,000.

-- Voice-over-IP specialist Avaya announced a new tool that retailers can use to manage VOIP services between individual stores, called Integrated Management for IP Office. The company is also partnering with retail specialist, Indyme Solutions, which will supply Avaya's VOIP software for in-store call boxes, where customers can call for assistance.

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