The Candid Voice in Retail Technology: Objective Insights, Pragmatic Advice

In The Middle Of Darkness, RetailROI Shines Some Light

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I always tell my partners not to “bury the lead.” Yet in a week like we’ve just had in the US, it’s hard to find just one lead. The best and worst of America was flashed in our faces. We all know that, and I would be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge it. The worst side was truly awful.

Yet in the middle of this awfulness, the light shined by a charity I’ve been involved with for many years, the Retail Orphan Initiative (or RetailROI) held its annual “SuperSaturday” event. Of course, being the year of COVID, the event was virtual, and occurred on a Friday.

That made it no less cool.

From the beginning, RetailROI has been financially supported by our vendor technology community, and this year was no exception. More than $210,000 was raised to help projects for orphans and vulnerable children in the US and around the world.

The keynote speaker of the event was not a retailer…it was Run-DMC’s Darryl McDaniels, who moved through “the system” from foster care to adoption, and ultimately now sits in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. It’s inspiring to hear stories like his, and SuperSaturday never disappoints in that way. This year didn’t make me weep, as have others at previous events.

In these difficult times, feel good stories are hard to come by, and I was really happy to hear him.

Of course, it’s always a delight to hear from retailers, and this year those included executives from Target, J. Jill and SaladWorks. I was fortunate enough to moderate a panel with Vitamin Shoppe’s Andy Laudato and J. Jill’s Deanna Steele. Our topic was one I’m very intrigued with.

COVID-19 has shown us that in most cases, headquarters workers can get their jobs done almost as easily from home as they can from the office. For the past year, it has been a necessity, but it’s our view that this realization and shift in how work is done will continue after COVID-19 has faded into a memory. The suburbs are more appealing than cities all of a sudden, and people are quite literally moving to places like Florida in droves.

We spent some quality time talking about the implications on inculcating employees in culture, the need for Cloud based, zero-footprint solutions, the question of providing computers for these new home-workers, and measuring productivity and advancement.

There’s no doubt that once the pandemic has passed, at minimum, quarterly meetings at corporate headquarters could help support some of these objectives, but in the meanwhile, there are some serious implications to new system implementations. It also certainly gives far more importance incremental vs. big-bang upgrades.

Other questions arise: How do you pay someone who is living and working in Utah on behalf of a company headquartered in New Jersey? The general agreement is that you pay based on costs where the worker lives, and tax the same way. Hence (along with the climate), we see the reasons why people are moving to Florida in droves. No state or local taxes helps your money go a lot further.

Long story short, once again, RetailROI put on an excellent event, one I was proud and happy to be a part of. If I’ve piqued your interest, the event is available free, on demand at  

And in other good news, as a final note, I received my first dose of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine this week (the age of “seniors” is younger here). I feel like I just received my parole from prison date. No strings were pulled, no tricks were made. We registered early and our names came up early as well. By Valentine’s Day, I will be as good to go as anyone in these very strange times. I wish all of you the same. Freedom to walk around without fear, no reason to be the mask police anymore, and slowly, a return to normalcy. That’ll be a lead that definitely won’t be buried!

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Newsletter Articles January 13, 2021
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