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Ray Allegrezza

Myriad conference attendees learn to ‘Advance' businesses

SAN ANTONIO - Retailers attending Myriad Software's 19th annual conference here were encouraged to apply the theme of this year's event - "Advance" - to their businesses.
     "Despite this being a year underscored by lots of uncertainty, we all have to continue to advance, move forward, evolve, progress and develop," Carolyn Crowley, president of the retail software provider, told the roomful of retailers from across the country.
     Underscoring the still challenging business environment, Crowley referenced a number of reports, including one from CNBC titled "Main Street 2012: The Year of Living with Uncertainty." She said it found that concerns over tax hikes and higher costs for health care had prompted entrepreneurs to dramatically cut back on hiring plans.
     Another survey from Yahoo found that the top five concerns for small business owners were taxes, health care, issues with lending, on shoring and the shortage of skilled workers.
     Crowley also referenced a recent article in Forbes magazine that showed that 85% of small businesses plan to invest in technology as a means to help grow their businesses.
     "Specifically, the top five technology solutions are mobile apps, analytics, cloud storage, mobile security and Web conferencing," she said, adding, "and many of these solutions are in line with what Myriad does."
     Crowley said that as a solutions provider, Myriad has also had to face a number of business decisions. "In order to continue to provide state-of-the-art solutions and products, we had to take a look at Eclicktic and its future development; how to offer better performance and backup on the cloud, and we also intend to upgrade BeMobile."
     Eclicktic is the name of Myriad's proprietary software solutions for furniture retailers. BeMobile gives store owners access to inventory, sales and other information via their mobile phones.
     Also speaking to the group was economist Alan Beaulieu, President of ITR Economics in Boscawen, N.H. He told the Myriad attendees that compared to the uncertainties of 2012, 2013 should shape up to be a fairly good year.
     "By comparison, you are going to like 2013, especially since we may be looking at a mild consumer-led recession in 2014," he said.
     But for right now, Beaulieu said, "Retail sales are good and even though consumers are saving, they are still spending. Liquidity is not an issue, exports are up, interest rates are low and the banks want to lend to their best customers."
     He also said he believes that 2015 to 2018 should be "up years" with increased hiring and consumers consequently spending.
     However, he said the seesaw economy will still be in play as he anticipates another downturn in 2019, and one he predicted will be "half as bad as the downturn of 2009."
     But the real economic challenges will hit this country by 2030. "At that point, we will be in a serious depression - and you should be thinking of the Great Depression," Beaulieu said.
     His advice to those in the room was simple and straightforward. "If you have a business, sell it in 2028. Make sure you have multiple revenue streams, as little debt as possible, and between now and then, save, save and then save some more," he warned.
     Lastly, he advised people looking for a home to buy it now and plan on living in it for quite some time. "You have to plan on being out of debt and taking care of yourselves. Do not depend on the government for your future," he cautioned.
     He also said that while interest rates continue to be artificially low, they will begin to go up, eventually hitting levels reminiscent of the Jimmy Carter years.
     Beaulieu also blamed the future depression on a number of drivers including continued unemployment, growing national debt, steadily spiking health care costs and changes in demographics.
     "For the first time, people ages 55 and over outnumber those 18 years old or younger," he said.
     Looked at another way, 10,000 Americans are retiring each day and by 2030, 80 million Americans will be receiving social security, Medicare or Medicaid.
     Looking out even further, Beaulieu said the global economy seems better. "China's growing middle class and subsequent consumption will result in more global stability, and the country's cost basis will continue to go up and all of that bodes well for the U.S.," he said.
     Europe will also stabilize and rebound, helped largely by Germany. "They have the funds to bail out the rest of Europe and Germany will do it, providing the countries it helps are willing to embrace austere budgets."
     Beaulieu even predicted that the U.S. will have a balanced budget, but probably not until 2060.
     Scott Gamble, vice president of digital solutions for Alliance Data Retail Services, also presented at the Myriad conference, talking about innovations, opportunities and challenges presented by the changing mobile landscape.
     He noted that with some 50% of Americans now having mobile Internet access, "Mass mobility is at the point of no return."
     That fact, he added, is particularly important to retailers because 65% of smartphone shoppers start the shopping process using their smartphones. Citing findings from a survey conducted by his company, Gamble noted that 88% of consumers said they use their smartphones to shop either weekly or daily.
     He said mass mobility has led to new consumer behavior, in particular showrooming, a term used to describe the practice of a consumer who shops an item in a brick and mortar retail store, then uses a mobile device to comparison price the item online.
     "Consumer control of the shopping experience is increasing, but so are the selling opportunities for retailers," Gamble said.
     He mentioned how in targeting consumers with e-offers sent to their smartphones, Starbucks is currently enjoying 2.1 million mobile payment transactions per week.
     "Obviously, that is not going to happen in a furniture store, but the opportunity to communicate with your customer on his or her smartphone is clearly there and growing," Gamble added.
     In addition to these keynote presentations, Myriad's attendees also participated in a number of workshops and breakout sessions that ran the gamut from Better Customer Management and Advanced Tracking and Analysis of Warranties to Advancing Data Efficiency through Data Purge, Advancing Inventory Accuracy, Advancing Your Sales Force & Customer Loyalty, Advancing Your Merchandising Knowledge and others.

Carolyn Crowley,
Carolyn Crowley, president of Myriad, brought conference attendees up to date on the company’s progress during her opening remarks.
Laura Cross, left, Bassett San Marcos, San Marcos, Calif.; Eliza Bacon and Alisha Postell, both with Carthage Furniture, Carthage, Texas.
Laura Cross,
Larry Marquez,
Larry Marquez, left, and Candy Marquez, La-Z-Boy Metairie, Metairie, La.; Sherri Reynolds, Myriad; and Larry Marquez II, La-Z-Boy Metairie.
Tyler Swanson, left, Ernies Store Inc., Ceresco, Neb.; Dorian Sims, Stacy Furniture Grapevine, Texas; Eddie Massood, Thomasville Furniture, Totowa, N.J.; and Kris Bower, Ernies Store.
Tyler Swanson,

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