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NRF 2013: A Different Kind of ROI

On Jan. 12, one day before the opening of the National Retail Federation’s annual conference, I attended another event in New York for the first time – RetailROI’s fourth annual Super Saturday, held at the plush PwC Auditorium in midtown Manhattan as a kind of lead-in to the Big Show.

RetailROI sounds like your standard retail technology vendor promising a quick return, but it’s nothing like that. It stands for Retail Orphan Initiative, a nonprofit group raising awareness and providing help for the more than 400 million vulnerable children worldwide, including 143 million orphans.

RetailROI was formed in 2009 by a group of IT-oriented retail executives, consultants and technology vendors, who were inspired by the work of the late Paul Singer, a chief information officer at Supervalu and Target, and a tireless advocate for orphans and supporter of adoption services.

At the Super Saturday event, Greg Buzek, president of IHL Consulting and the driving force behind RetailROI, noted that in 2012 the group’s 23 projects in 13 countries – from the U.S. to Zambia – helped an estimated 11,856 children.

RetailROI works primarily as a behind-the-scenes fundraiser for charities “with feet on the street” who directly address the issues of orphan care, foster care, adoption support, child rescue from human trafficking and life-skills training. About 70% of the money raised by RetailROI is spent abroad and about 30% in the U.S., and 93% of revenues go to grants and projects.

There are a host of ways that individuals and businesses can get involved with RetailROI – the best source of information is its website,

RetailROI has a lot of brainpower behind it, particularly on the IT and consulting side of retail. In addition to addressing the adoption issue, Super Saturday had a series of business presentations by high-powered folks like Jeff Roster, vice president of global industries, retail for Gartner, and Deborah Weinswig, managing director, Citi Investment Research. At the NRF Conference, a number of technology vendors, including Oracle, Intel, Reflexis and 1010Data, offered support for the organization.

The Super Saturday event also found a way to combine retail technology with charitable giving, discussing a proposed POS standard for charitable giving. This initiative, being launched under the auspices of NRF and its ARTS (Association of Retail Technology Standards division), would create a universal technology standard by which POS and transaction terminals would accept donations for specific charitable causes. If interested in participating in the standard development effort, contact Tom Litchford, NRF’s vice president of retail technologies, at [email protected].

The grocery industry has a distinguished tradition of supporting charitable groups, and I hope food retailers get involved with RetailROI and the standards work.


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