What Stopped NMB: Our Mashup of Under-abused Insights from NRF (Part I)

Mobile, digital, sustainable, global, local, glocal . . . all pervasive themes that were widely covered before, during, and after last week’s NRF Big Show . . . that’s why they aren’t starred in my spiral.

Here’s my mashup of under-abused insights from the show and elsewhere, along with a few takeaways: 


If my buyer calls, get her name! 

From the podium:

Target’s VP of Merchandising Process & Support, Shelley Hyytinen, stated that their “model for managing internal talent” ensures that the average time that a merchant spends in a position is about two years, which is “just enough time to start to understand the nuances” of a product category before moving on to a new business. During the same panel, Doug Knudsen, President of Retail Sales for ConAgra, told a great story about the far-reaching organizational changes that have occurred during his tenure, quipping, “If my boss calls, get his name.”


During the show, three separate supplier company executives relayed stories to me about programs that had been in development with various retailers for months or even years, only to get dashed in the eleventh hour or, as one friend put it, “right at the finish line,” due to a change in personnel with the retailer’s organization.


  • We’ve been telling our clients for a while that rapid turnover at retailer HQ isn’t a flaw in the system, it’s intentional and often institutionalized.
  • Even if you believe all the grousing that retail isn’t a relationship business anymore, you have to accept that it is a reputation business – and the only way you can secure yours is by building contingency contacts and courting both decision-makers and influencers.
  • You have to know your business and your brands inside out because the person across the table may or may not.
  • Doors are spinning on both sides of the retail table. Don't let your story get "lost in transition."

You Can’t Handle the Truth!

From the podium:

When asked the level of transparency to data that Target supplies to its vendors, Target’s Ms. Hyytinen stated that all vendors have access to Target’s Partners Online system and that category captains get access to more than that. She then took it a step further by saying that the “level of granularity” shared is also determined by the perceived level of vendor skill.


Some version of “Can’t all of this just be done in Excel?” was asked by suppliers in more than one data analytics session that I attended (the short answer was “No”).


  • Your logon password is a key to table stakes and the vendor-managed era is coming to a close.
  • Retailers can once again assert their right to play “for me to know and you to find out” with the exploding amount of data that they alone own thanks to loyalty cards, credit card transactions, web presence, and social media.
  • Retailer perception is supplier reality; the criteria for data sharing is subjective and it will become even more so as the data becomes richer and more complex.
  • If retailers don’t think your teams can handle the complexity (and capacity), you’ll find yourself out of the loop.


Unstructured data, text analytics, rich data

In parts II and beyond, I’ll reveal the rest of my underplayed greatest hits list.


carol spieckerman2 Comments