Microsoft reiterates commitment to SMB retail as Dynamics RMS VARs ponder industry future

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Valerie Miller reporting for MSDynamicsWorld.com on Microsoft’s stated commitment to the SMB retail segment.

The final day of the Retail Realm 2015 technology conference in Las Vegas saw a flurry of activity on Monday. Partners and vendors were eager to offer hope for brick-and-mortar retailers, while the smallest shops were also promised an alternative to Dynamics RMS that would fit their budgets.

Buzz about Retail Realm Essentials seemed to energize the three-day conference, which ran April 25-27 at the Four Seasons Hotel.

Monday’s opening keynote session, looked at how brick-and-mortar stores and their online counterparts could complement each other.

Michael Montrose of UniteU, the vendor providing the eCommerce component of Retail Realm Essentials, pointed to some scary predictions for the future of retailing – that more retailers will disappear, that it is a bloodbath out there. And he raised a question – is retail past its shelf life?

“Don’t bet on the death of brick-and-mortar stores. Bet on the transformation of it,” Montrose said. He painted a picture of merging online with brick-and-mortar through a combination of eCommerce, in-store kiosks, and POS.

And Montrose promoted offering a better in-store experience – to match the online experience, and better in-store technology “as a prescription for what ails retailers.”

Microsoft Dynamics is also betting in the future of retail. “We are committed to the retail space,” said Microsoft Dynamics Senior Marketing Manager for Retail Esther Christoffersen. “That’s an investment that is only growing.”

Microsoft’s Duncan Taylor said the Retail Realm Essentials’ offering, which is based on the enterprise AX platform, is a plus for smaller companies.

“Those smaller retailers can take an advantage out of bigger retailers’ (AX) capabilities,” he said in a question-and-answer session on Monday.

“I get two to three emails a week that ‘RMS is dead. What is happening?”

Duncan reassured partners that Microsoft partners “can sell news RMS licenses until 2016, and existing customers can open new stores through 2021.”

Partners had voiced concern during the Retail Realm conference about the fate of the single-stores, or “mom-and-pop’ businesses, once RMS goes away. Vancouver, B.C.-based exhibitor Retail Hero is developing a solution for that single store scenario, it was announced, with the assistance of Retail Realm,

Retail Realm’s “Retail Management Hero” was demonstrated at the conference, and received good reviews. Retail Hero President Anthony Ludmilin said the price point will be the same as for RMS – just under $1,200.

Retail Management Hero, which is about 40 percent completed, will be offered as a free upgrade for those RMS users that are still paying  for maintenance for Microsoft.

Afshin Alikhani, president of Retail Realm, praised Retail Hero for filling a void that could be left once Microsoft stops licensing RMS altogether in 2021.

“The big problem in the (retail) community is that 40 percent, in the United States, are single stores, and 60 percent worldwide are single stores,” he said.

But Retail Realm Essentials is not a single-store solution.

“At a single-store, we can’t justify it,” Alikhani added.

The Retail Management Hero will offer the benefits of RMS, plus free POS, praised partner Shawn Collins.

“I could move all of my 55 small stores into Retail Management Hero,” he said.