RetailVision At 30

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Orlando, Fla. — The old adage, “The more things change, the more they stay the same,” is a particularly apt phrase to describe how Gartner’s RetailVision event has grown over the past 15 years.

What originally was smallish show, where long-term strategies and product road maps were discussed at length, has, after 30 shows, slowly morphed into what can only be described as a miniature International CES.

While the overall format has remained the same, vendors today have to be much quicker on their toes since they are only given 15 minutes to put on their dog and pony shows. But back in 1989 the retailers sat through 45-minute presentations from the 24 vendors, and this went on from 8 a.m. until 4 p.m.

“There were no breaks. Lunch was served during the sessions. Looking back it’s hard to believe the retailers put up with that,” said Pete Prentice, RetailVision’s event director.

In keeping with the old-school tradition, the show, which is running here this week, still has vendors pitching retailers, and Kathy Kolder and Adam Levin are still on hand. Other then that, a person attending the first show probably would not recognize RetailVision Spring 2005.

The most visible difference is its size. In excess of 2,000 people will be on hand this year, representing 200 manufacturers and dozens of retailers. Instead of filling a small boardroom in a Bermuda hotel, RetailVision will take over the Hyatt Grand Cypress here.

Over the years RetailVision has become a microcosm for what has transpired in the computer industry.

“It’s been fun to watch the industry evolve. Key players are here today and gone tomorrow,” Prentice said, noting that companies like Edmark Software and Dragon Systems have gone, while others like Belkin and Creative Labs have been with the show from the beginning.

RetailVision was there when multimedia computing and convergence were nothing but industry buzzwords, said Prentice, and the show’s recent inclusion of CE products indicates it is still on the cutting edge of what is new in the PC industry.

Similar forces have been at work on the retail side. A laundry list of retailers has popped up at RetailVision only to disappear. Some like Computer City, an original attendee, have undergone a major transformation at RetailVision. Prentice said Tandy Corp., now RadioShack, announced its acquisition of Computer City during one show and the new owners pulled all of the Computer City representatives out of the event.


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