By Mike Monocello, chief editor
By all accounts, the recently-held RetailNOW 2010 was a huge success. The RSPA's attendee numbers alone speak to the growth and popularity of the show. The consensus among vendors I spoke with was that traffic on the show floor was great and dealers were actively seeking new solutions. Dealers I spoke with were thrilled with the quality of education at the event, in particular, the Industry Leader Panel discussion and session on PCI. What more can be said about RetailNOW 2010? John Dittig, national sales manager for North America/ Elo Touch Division at Tyco Electronics, had my favorite quote regarding the event: "This is the best show in 7 years." All that said, where do Finizio and company go from here?
During a recent conversation, Finzio told me that he and his team learned a lot at this show that will be carried forward to next year's RetailNOW. "We know what's working now," he says. "It's the education and the networking." Concerning the education, some might think that the Industry Leader Panel discussion would be difficult to top. While Finizio does think the bar is now set high, he feels the association will be able to deliver equally valuable content at its next events. "This year, we had fewer education sessions, focused on higher quality. We'll continue that going forward."
Another benefit of having fewer education sessions dovetails with what Finizio believes is the other key ingredient to a successful show — networking. Indeed, by having fewer education sessions with no overlap with expo hall hours, attendees were forced to interact a lot more. "Part of our plan was to have attendees come out of the general session and en masse go to the next session," he explains. "This kept people together to a level we've never achieved before." Expect to see a similar format at next year's event.
Another thing that will most likely be carried over to future events is making the expo hall more interactive. "You can have the greatest exhibits, but if you don't have an interactive component, then you're missing the whole purpose of the show floor," he says. "This year, we had the closing party and lunch on the show floor to help keep the attendees and exhibitors engaged with one another. We'll continue to do that." Finizio continues by saying that, ultimately, he wants the exhibitors to feel the event is good for business and the attendees to feel like they made some dynamite connections, learned some great ideas, and took away valuable information that will help their businesses over the months until the next RSPA show.
Of course, the next RSPA show happens to be Inspire, which, if you're at all familiar with the event, you'll know is quite different from RetailNOW in format. However, that doesn't mean the lessons from RetailNOW 2010 can't be applied to Inspire. "Education and networking is what Inspire is all about," says Finizio. "The education at Inspire will be the same high quality, but it will go much deeper, which is something we can't do in the RetailNOW environment." Whereas RetailNOW education consists of experts and leaders sharing knowledge with the audience, Inspire education often involves workgroups and breakout sessions to make the lessons learned much more personal and applicable to ones own business. "Everyone I talk to says they leave Inspire with an idea that pays for the event over and over again." Finizio says his team is currently finalizing the education for Inspire and will release the curriculum in the coming month or so.
Quick side note: Inspire 2011 (Jan. 23-26, 2011) is in Hawaii. Finizio says the RSPA has negotiated a killer rate — $179 a night — for a beautiful property in Maui. While you should attend the event just for the education and networking, doing it in Maui definitely sweetens the deal, yes?
Without a doubt, the success of RetailNOW 2010 shows that the RSPA is moving in the right direction. The industry leader panel discussion contained representation from the largest players in the retail space. If nothing else, this shows that the association has the support of our industry leaders. Additionally, the PCI roundtable had representation from the NRA (National Restaurant Association), NACS (National Association of Convenience Stores), and the PCI Security Standards Council. That's a big deal as this shows that the RSPA now stands shoulder to shoulder with some long-standing globally known associations. Additionally, Finizio tells me that he's been working closely with these associations to find the proper business solution to collectively address data transaction security issues. While in the past some may have accused the RSPA and its predecessor the ICRDA of being a "good old boy" type of organization not delivering a whole lot of value, today the reality is that the RSPA is hard at work providing exceptional education, unsurpassed networking opportunities, and is working hard to support retail dealers on the biggest issues facing our industry.