Self-service a Silver Lining

By Abigail A. Lorden | February 11, 2009

Judging from the long lines at the food concessions, you wouldn't have been able to tell that attendance was down at the National Retail Federation's Big Show. Held each January at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center in New York City, it's typically among the most well-attended trade shows, and focuses heavily on IT.

In the five years I've covered the show, 2009 appeared to have the lightest attendance (and all the tech exhibitors I spoke to agreed); unfortunately, the drop in traffic was especially noticeable following its banner attendance in 2008.

Two things stood out, however, that helped put a silver lining on troubling times: people were still dining out, en masse, and technology vendors were continuing to showcase the latest fruits of their R&D labor. One technology trend - self service - stood out as being particularly prevalent at the show, and its growing use in the retail and hospitality industries may well be a powerful weapon in combating reduced customer spending, while also boosting efficiency and offsetting labor costs.

Self-service has been around for some time, but new applications are spicing up its appeal, and expanding its reach. From new uses for kiosks (Avaya's Video Assist application, which connects customers to off-site tech support, for example) to mobile applications that turn customers' personal portable devices into a POS, self-service is shaping up to be a hot technology trend.

For complete coverage of hospitality-related news from the Show, log onto And watch for a new online portal our publishing company, Edgell Communications, is launching in March. will offer news, trends and insights in retail and hospitality self-service. With yours truly as editor-in-chief, I welcome any input you have regarding this growing technology trend.

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