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Taking a look at NRF numbers and CSCMP’s Annual Conference

By Jeff Berman, Group News Editor
October 06, 2011

At a time when economic conditions remain in a holding pattern, the National Retail Federation today said that projected 2011 holiday sales will follow suite, with holiday sales—defined by the NRF as sales in the months of November and December—expected to be average.

NRF officials said that 2011 retail sales will be up 2.8 percent over 2010, coming in at $465.6 billion. This expected growth pales in comparison to the 5.2 percent annual increase in 2009 over 2009.

But let’s not forget just how bad, I mean easy, of a comp year 2009 was for 2010, before we start calling 2010 the “good old days.” If it was, it means a great many people were late to the party or simply not invited.

Even though the projected 2.8 percent rate for 2011 is less than a year ago, it is worth noting that the NRF said it is slightly higher than the ten-year average holiday sales increase of 2.6 percent.

Regardless what the numbers tell us, though, not much is really changing in a meaningful way, it seems.  I am pretty sure we all knew that.

So instead of lamenting the fact that retail sales look mostly flat at a time when a while back we were all hoping for a strong second half, and finish, to 2011, we now listen to new voices of optimism for a “true” recovery in 2013. We have been hearing for roughly five years that things will be better by the second half of next year, so we are just hitting fast-forward.

Even with that backdrop, it is worth noting that there were as many optimists regarding the economy as there were pessimists when talking with people on all sides of the road, whether it be shippers, carriers and logistics services providers, consultants and analysts, and academics at this year’s Council of Supply Chain Management Professionals Annual Conference in Philadelphia this week.

That is a good thing. People have different reasons for coming up with different conclusions when gauging market conditions.

Some people told me they are worried about what is happening with not enough positive economic signals out there (which is hard to dispute) and chronically high unemployment numbers. Others said they think things have bottomed and that we will see gains in economic improvement sooner rather than later.

Who knows who is right? Tough question to answer.

While retail sales projections tell us not to expect much anytime soon, the refreshing part of attending CSCMP this week was that it is beyond obvious that this industry is constantly evolving, when it comes to things like new supply chain strategies, ways to approach managing capacity, trying to figure out how to deal with the driver shortage problem, existing and pending regulations, the pros and cons of being “green,” energy prices, and the biggest trends in the 3PL industry. Of course, there was also cloud computing repeatedly coming up as a topic of conversation.

That is the tip of the iceberg, really. There were many other things discussed, which we shippers and carriers can learn from and incorporate into their daily business lives. That is what makes events like this a true learning experience with many takeaways. That is what makes events like this worth the time and planning every year, coupled with making new friends and catching up with old ones.

About the Author

Jeff Berman headshot
Jeff Berman
Group News Editor

Jeff Berman is Group News Editor for Logistics Management, Modern Materials Handling, and Supply Chain Management Review. Jeff works and lives in Cape Elizabeth, Maine, where he covers all aspects of the supply chain, logistics, freight transportation, and materials handling sectors on a daily basis. .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).


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