Retail Rants & Raves

The National Retail Federation (NRF) today released a study authored by a University of Georgia economist who found that retail jobs pay wages that are highly competitive with those in other industries. The NRF's report, Wages in the Retail Industry: Getting the Facts Straight, is part of its Retail Jobs Week, an initiative from the trade association to educate Washington lawmakers about the value retail jobs deliver for millions of workers and the economy as a whole.

In case you haven't seen or heard the news yet, Urban Outfitters is embroiled in yet another controversy. The apparel retailer decided it was a good idea to sell a red-stained, seemingly blood-splattered "Vintage Kent State Sweatshirt" on its website. The university in Kent, Ohio was the site of a deadly confrontation between students protesting the Vietnam War and the Ohio National Guard. Four students were killed and nine others were wounded on a fateful day in May 1970. Yet Urban Outfitters thought it was wise to make light — and a few bucks, the sweatshirt sold for a mere $129 — of the situation.

In an effort to give you a sneak peek into the upcoming Retail Online Integration webinar, One Size Does NOT Fit All: Delivering Customized Shopping Experiences for Your Customers (you can register for free here!), I conducted an interview with Catherine Frye, marketing and customer services solutions manager, IBM Business Analytics. Frye will be co-presenting the webinar, and offered a few of her thoughts on the value of personalization in e-commerce. Here's a portion of that interview:

Having had a couple of days to regroup and recover from last week's Internet Retailer Conference & Exhibition (IRCE) in Chicago, I wanted to take the opportunity this space provides me to offer my thoughts on the event. So, in no particular order, here they are:

One of the more interesting developments to come out of the IBM Smarter Commerce Global Summit in Nashville this week, from which I've just returned, is the launch of IBM Watson Engagement Advisor. The "super computer," named after IBM founder Thomas J. Watson, was designed as a computing system that could rival the human brain's ability to respond to questions posed in natural language with speed, accuracy and confidence.

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