| NEW YORK
NEW YORK Jan 12 U.S. retailers aiming to
survive the recession, and perhaps gain ground when the economy
recovers, will need to invest in everything from new tools for
customer service to information technology, experts with
consulting firm Deloitte said on Monday.
U.S. store chains from Best Buy Co (BBY.N) to Dillard's
(DDS.N) have cut jobs or pared store growth to salvage profits
in the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression. But
healthy chains recognize the need to go beyond belt-tightening
and embrace new ways of running their business.
"This downturn, while difficult, does provide opportunity
for retailers to become more competitive and increase market
share," Stacy Janiak, U.S. retail leader for Deloitte LLP, told
the National Retail Federation's annual conference held in New
Janiak said retailers who stay the course and ignore
investments in strategic IT programs will not be equipped to
lure consumers who are both seeking value and information.
For instance, even as retailers slow their hiring, they can
still train workers to provide a better shopping experience,
"Even though you may be reducing your workforce today, you
must invest to ensure that those who remain are well-equipped
to continue with customer centricity and deliver that desired
shopping experience," Janiak said.
Carl Steidtmann, chief economist of consumer business for
Deloitte Research, said even as retailers grapple with the
current no-growth environment, a host of factors will make
retailing yet more difficult in the years ahead.
These include a growth in older consumers who typically
don't have high levels of spending, downsizing of the housing
market and an expanding population in urban areas.
"We are in the midst of a great transformation ... that
will create a very different economy," Steidtmann said. "And no
industry is going to be more affected than retail."
He said decreasing consumer credit and restrictions on
lending will limit retail expansion and lead to more
bankruptcies and consolidation. But unlike the past, many
retail chains won't emerge from bankruptcy in this cycle, he
Economic recovery, when it comes, will not be driven by
consumer spending as it has been traditionally, but by
businesses bringing manufacturing back to the United States,
rising global exports and more government spending.
"We're going to see a dramatic increase in
the role of government, not just in terms of its regulatory
structure but also in terms of its spending level in our
economy to a degree that we have never seen before," Steidtmann
(Reporting by Karen Jacobs; editing by Richard Chang)