Apart from being home to some of the most awesome historical architecture on the planet, the wealth of cultural heritage that comes from being the most influential and wide-reaching seat of power in the ancient world, and all that other bookish nonsense, Rome’s real claim to fame is its hosting of last month’s Retail Vision event.
Legions of distributors and retail buyers descended on the city’s lavish Marriot Park Hotel for a gladiatorial spree of boardroom presentations bolstered by an exhibition event showcasing some new products.
The event is smaller than other IT and technology trade shows such as CeBIT, CES and our own Channel Expo, and it is that focused nature – along with the self-scheduling system – that its organisers hold up as one of Retail Vision’s key strengths.
Having been bought by Everything Channel in February, the show is set for expansion with new events planned across the globe. When asked if it was the greatest success Retail Vision has had so far, international event director at Everything Channel Gemma Walker said: "Yes, I’ll take that. It’s a big success this year. I’d say Retail Vision Spring is one of our biggest events – we used to do two European events, and now we’re putting all our efforts into this big European spring event.
We’re doing another Retail Vision event in Dubai in November. We’ve got 75 vendors out there; we’ve got a great audience. From the UK we’ve had buyers from DSGi, Staples, Amazon, Dabs, so all the big companies there – it’s looking good."
CEO of Everything Channel Robert Faletra added: "We’re big believers in indirect sales channels. This is clearly an important route to market for a lot of vendors. We look at our role as helping vendors to establish the best route to market and to understand those markets well and succeed in them. This is something that made sense to put into our portfolio, which is why we did it."
Meanwhile, Faletra hinted that the show could soon come to the UK, which would certainly give Channel Expo organisers Incisive Media something to think about: "Clearly the UK’s an important market.
You’ve got to ask yourself why wouldn’t you do something there? You’ll see a much bigger presence from us in the UK as you will throughout Europe and into Asia. We didn’t buy this to sit still. The real goal is to grow the Retail Vision business to a world-wide opportunity for retailers as well as the vendors that are trying to engage with them."
One of the clear stars of the show was the Classmate PC – the implementation of Intel’s ‘one laptop per child’ project to developed markets, courtesy of system builder CMS Computers. Due to launch in the UK at the end of July, the child-focussed small form-factor PC will have an RRP of under £200, and generated a great deal of retail interest at the show.
"We felt the show was one of the most successful events of its type we have ever attended," says Rob Jones, marketing manager at CMS Computers.
"We managed to speak with numerous buyers from major European retailers and have already secured major orders"
PlanOn also gained a great deal of attention with its bluetooth-enabled PrintStik portable printer, aimed at business professionals on the go who may need to print items quickly while not having access to the required hardware.
Alongside the item is a range of consumables, including a print roll for add-on sales. Apparently, the device has been featured on TV programs such as CSI and 24, though we assume most UK consumers will be using the device for far more innocent uses than high-tech forensics and international espionage.
OXX Digital is no stranger to success at Retail Vision, having won ‘product of the show’ at last year’s Paris event. On its stand in Rome was the Classic 600 digital music device, which uses a wireless network to access a huge amount of radio stations from across the world, and stream digital music from a PC. Also on show was the firm’s retro Vantage range and the Handy – a portable wi-fi music system which will be available in September.
Exspect, which picked up the Best Retail Strategy prize at the Retail Vision awards, was showing off its MiBag range of colour changeable laptop bags (which are bought as a standard black version and can then be customised with various colours), as well as demonstrating its increasing focus on gaming accessories with Nintendo Wii video game peripherals and new iPod and MP3 player headphones.
Neil Meredith, Exspect’s general manager, said: "We have picked up two awards at two events and that clearly helps us feel confident that what we are doing can and is working around Europe as well as in the UK. We are particularly pleased to win the award for Best Retail Strategy because that is what we pride ourselves on – the way in which we work with our customers."
AIPTEK presented the PocketDV AHD Z500/Plus, a very compact DVD camcorder which is capable of full HD 1080p, retailing for around €279.
Serif, joint winner of the Best Product: Software prize at the show’s gala awards event, used the event to launch the retail box versions of its photo manipulation and publishing software range. Web Plus X2, Photo Plus X2, Draw Plus X2 and Page Plus Publisher are all now available in separate versions, rather than a whole suite.
Elsewhere, Trust was highlighting its stylised wireless keyboard and laser mouse set for the Apple Mac, representing its growing intentions in the sector.