NRF Forecast

Leadership development, tweeting and expansion are among the top priorities for retailers this year, according to a report released by the National Retail Federation. The ninth annual, “Retail Horizons: Benchmarks for 2010, Forecasts for 2011,” prepared by NRF Foundation and audit firm, KPMG LLP, examines retail industry benchmarks, retailers’ key priorities and plans, and retail trends. More than 300 retail executives from 135 North American companies were polled for the study. Eighty percent of those surveyed said leadership development would be a top priority this year, up from 69 percent in 2010. Social networking also topped the list. The number of retailers who reported using Twitter jumped from 61 percent in 2009 to 79 percent in 2010, with an additional 18 percent planning to use the site for their ecommerce program during the next 18 months. In addition, more executives than last year said their companies intend to increase domestic store expansion in 2011, 42 percent vs. 25 percent in 2010, and 25 percent said they will expand overseas, up from 21 percent a year ago. More execs also identified mobile commerce as a strategic initiative, 69 percent in 2011 vs. 28 percent in 2010.

The focus on cost reduction and cost containment was down considerably, from 81 to 58 percent. “It’s quite obvious retailers are anxious to put the recession behind them and build upon their customer service initiatives, enhance their mobile platforms and even grow their footprint,” says Katherine Mance, the NRF Foundation’s executive director. “As we move forward in 2011, retailers will strive to keep costs low, but will also continue to focus on providing positive and unique shopping experiences for their customers. This year’s report paints an encouraging picture of the coming year for both retailers and consumers.” Mark Larson, head of KPMG’s retail group, says these findings, “dramatically demonstrate that retail expansion is back on the agenda. After several years of belt tightening, retailers are also ready to begin experimenting again with new brick and mortar concepts, hoping to appeal to shoppers interested in buying discretionary items once again.” Larson notes, “They will, however, move ahead with cost discipline in mind.”

Other key findings include:

• 78 percent rank their customer loyalty program first, up from 65 percent in 2010.

• 75 percent say customer service will be a top priority, up from 56 percent.

• 74 percent say they will increase their consumer insight and data gathering initiatives in 2011.

• Among supply chain initiatives, greater focus will be on optimizing the distribution network, increasing from 38 to 52 percent in 2011, and for cross docking, up from 17 to 24 percent.