How retailers should prepare for growth in 2017.
By Sam Darwish
The market decline of 2008 and 2009 led to a period of distress within the retail industry. During these years, the industry saw little to no growth, causing many businesses to go under. However, in recent years, we have noticed a slow but steady stream of growth, and today we can finally see a thriving market for emerging retailers.
According to the National Retail Federation, the retail industry grew by more than 3% in 2016 and further growth is anticipated in 2017. As a result, several business owners are taking notice by opening new store fronts across the country. With such rapid expansion expected, it is critical for retailers to understand how growth will result in the increased need for additional IT infrastructure.
When opening a new retail location, there are several essential tasks a store owner must complete to ensure the success of the business. From hiring staff members and stocking product, to designing the space and ensuring all technology components work together seamlessly, it can be easy for an action item to fall through the cracks.
In order for emerging retailers to achieve success and longevity within this competitive industry, it is important they understand what the IT needs of their business are before opening a new location. Consider these two major guidelines emerging retailers should follow when expanding their business:
- Prioritize Your Needs: As a business owner considering expansion, having a full understanding of the IT solutions needed will help set the foundation for success. Start with a list of potential IT needs and pare them down to determine which are necessary for your growing business. Next, make an action plan and timeline for each IT item. Below is a list of potential IT needs to get you started:
- Database collection from customers
- Surveillance cameras
- Physical and cyber security system
- Point-of-sale systems
- Linked network of cash registers
- Receipt printers
- Wi-Fi access
- Pricing guns
- E-Commerce site
- Shipping software and hardware
- Repeat touch points with customers
- Hire the Right IT Provider For Your Business: In order to keep growing at a healthy pace, emerging retailers should make it a priority to partner with one service provider with the capability to handle all IT needs. Business owners should choose an IT provider that will truly be a partner to the company and its success. An IT provider should offer customized solutions tailored to the specific needs of your growing business. This is why it is important to develop your list of IT essentials prior to selecting an IT partner to ensure they can meet all expected needs.
Thoroughly developing your list of IT needs and finding the right partner can make or break a company. The right partner will have the ability to think of additional items that need to be added to the list, and anticipate potential troubleshoots so they can react quickly.
For example, Harry & David is a rapidly growing, emerging retailer with complex IT needs. The company specializes in creating gourmet gift baskets suitable for any special occasion. Thousands of gift baskets are sent out each year and it takes a large IT database to keep track of their many sales. When the company needed to replace 125 computers, it contacted its IT partner to ensure the team could secure new units, update each machine and back up the data quickly as if nothing on the employees’ desks had changed. Harry & David’s IT provider was able to send multiple team members to complete the task and within 5 days the job was done. Expect your IT provider to anticipate such needs and deliver a low project cost, provide a quick turnaround and ensure business continuity so you are able to continue operating effectively with no loss of productivity.
SICOM Systems, Inc. provides digital signage software in the quick-service restaurant industry and works for clients such as Popeye’s, Hardees, Carl’s Jr. and Burger King. Before utilizing a single provider and not organizing their IT needs, SICOM used several different companies to deliver various technology solutions, which can cost a significant amount in additional expense. When the company decided to hire one IT provider, they streamlined many of the operational efficiencies and IT costs associated. By finding a true partner, the company has grown exponentially due to establishing processes and systems in place for installing the digital signage. Switching to a single IT provider allowed SICOM to increase the bottom line while better serving their 150 quick-service restaurant clients throughout the U.S. and Canada.
As the industry continues to grow in the years to come, it has never been more important for emerging retailers to understand how IT services play a vital role in the success of their businesses. Companies who prioritize their IT needs and hire the IT provider that is the right fit will be the ones to stand out and break away from the pack in this competitive industry.
— Sam Darwish is the president, CEO and co-founder of Skinny IT. Based in Frisco, Texas, Skinny IT delivers a wide range of customizable information technology solutions to more than 150 enterprises worldwide, helping them to optimize operational efficiencies and increase the bottom line. The company offers a wide array of IT services for converged solutions providers, large-scale national retailers and value-added resellers across the country. For more information, visit www.skinnyit.com.