From The Editor | September 11, 2012

Channel Sustainability: Retail IT Leaders Weigh In

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Channel sustainability is an important topic among retail IT solutions providers today, especially with the emergence of iPads and the shift to a recurring revenue model. Members of the Industry Vision Panel at RetailNOW 2012 provided their take on channel sustainability and recommended actions for resellers.

Jim Roddy, BSM: Everyone is concerned about channel sustainability. (Retail Solutions Providers Association CEO) Joe Finizio was talking about it this morning. You can wring your hands about it and fret, or you can do something about it. What actions would you say a reseller needs to take today to make sure that their business is relevant and thriving five years from now?

Justin Scopaz, Ingram Micro: Go on the offensive. Waiting for things to settle to understand at that point who you want to partner with and what's the right solution – it's going to be too late. Things are changing now. They're going to continue to change, and I would encourage everyone to jump in.

As far as one action to take, leverage distribution. As we mentioned now two or three times, you'd be in shock to know how many resources we have with people, with training, and manufacturer relationships that we can sync you up with. There's a lot there for you to take advantage of. That's our lifeblood. That's what we are here to do, and I would encourage you strongly to take advantage of it.

Ray Carlin, HP: I would focus on embracing the change and the opportunity. I think if you look at what's available to sell to your customers today, whether it's digital signage or video surveillance or mobility, point of sale is so much richer than it has been in the past. I would continue to encourage folks to really focus on becoming that trusted advisor. That's how you really get sticky with your customers. They come to you first as the resource that's going to help them navigate through these changes in technology.

Paul Constantine, ScanSource: I think the biggest challenge that all of us have is our businesses keep us very, very busy on the day-to-day. What's happening today, what problems are your customers having today, and what internal things am I going to manage? The key to managing through a technology transition is forcing yourself into a discipline and spending time on expanding the view of either what technologies you can sell or what your customers really want.

Whether it's yourself or you delegate it to somebody in your organization, create time – force yourself to spend time – and hold yourself and people in your organization accountable for spending time on how to innovate, how to stay relevant, and how to sustain your business. It doesn't happen by osmosis. It's got to be a conscious decision and a discipline you force on yourself, or else it's hard to get it done.

Ted Clark, IBM (Toshiba): I'm going to give a little different version of this. It's the value that the RSPA brings. The RSPA is so unique and so wonderful – it's really inspiring. Look at this room now versus when I first came here seven years ago for my first RSPA Convention. It was like the Knights of Columbus Convention. For those of you who don’t know the Knights of Columbus, just ask your grandparents.

Look at this room – the diversity in the room, the age diversity in the room. We all have a responsibility to keep this industry going. Us veterans have a responsibility to mentor the younger, newer people. And the newer people, you have a responsibility for teaching the veterans new things that we don't know.

Jim, you had put me in contact with an ISV from Europe (COMBASE) who wants to expand into the United States, and I had breakfast with them this morning. And these two young people, they were born after I started at IBM, and it was great to see their enthusiasm.

I travel around the world, and no place outside of North America has the benefit of this kind of organization. From an industry point of view, our ability to network together and for competitors to put our boxing gloves away is really, really important to the growth of the industry. We share, we treat each other well, and we learn from each other for the future generations.

Steve Cuntz, BlueStar: Well, it's kind of like everything else in life. You can only count on change, and my attitude is embrace it. It's coming whether you want it or not. It doesn't really matter what you think. I love the IBM Selectric (typewriter). I think it was the greatest invention. As a young clerk, I did a lot of typing, and I spent most of my time using bottles of White Out. I would come home with white fingernails every night. And then, when we got our first Selectric, I thought, "My god!" That's the greatest thing on the face of the earth!"

To answer the question directly, things are changing in the channel, but I've never seen a more committed group of manufacturing partners in my life than to this channel. I don't see anyone going out and attempting to promote a way to sell these products and these services around the dealer base and valuate it himself. I think they've embraced this channel. They depend everyone here, and I can guarantee you the manufacturing community is here to support you.

This year the RetailNOW Industry Vision Panel was divided into two segments, a hardware-focused group and a software focused group. The hardware-focused panelists included:

  • Steve Cuntz, Chairman/CEO, BlueStar
  • Ted Clark, Global Business Partner Channel Leader, IBM Retail Store Solutions division (now part of Toshiba Global Commerce Solutions)
  • Paul Constantine, President, ScanSource POS/Barcoding
  • Ray Carlin, VP and General Manager, HP Retail Store Solutions Global Business Unit
  • Justin Scopaz, General Manager and VP, Ingram Micro Data Capture/POS division
  • Moderator: Jim Roddy, President, Jameson Publishing and Business Solutions magazine

RetailNOW was held July 29-Aug. 1 at Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas. For more information on RetailNOW 2012, including more excerpts from the Industry Vision Panel, go to www.BSMinfo.com/InsideRetailNOW.