jan round up photoIn January, big retail news jolted the industry out of its post-holiday stupor. While economic green shoots continue to sprout through the desiccated cracks of a wooden economy, hacking took center stage this month. Given the news of Target’s customer data breach and now Neiman Marcus, retailers everywhere are even more focused on securing customer data.

Hackers are working just as hard to ingeniously find ways to exploit data security in order to gain valuable customer data. Speaking of weak spots, retailers without the gargantuan R&D spend of the Wal-marts and Amazons of the world continue to see their market share gnawed away by retail giants. And with Amazon announcing pre-emptive shipments of products (with the use of drones in the near future), more brick-and-mortar retailers are beginning to realize that they can no longer beat Amazon at its own game. While the chips are stacked against non-behemoth retailers, I’m excited to see what surprising ways that smaller merchandisers can re-capture their audiences.

Solid retail sales in December point to economic acceleration,” NYTimes – More signs are pointing to a sustained recovery. The National Retail Federation found that compared to last year, more households were willing to loosen the purse strings for holiday spending. This growth is a good sign and indicates that retailers will start investing in more areas that can further spur their output.

FBI warns retailers to expect more breaches,” CNBC – It’s an age-old story: Not all those who want to make money want to do it the right way. Hot off the hard drives of unsecured databases everywhere; hackers are finding more and more ways to exploit retailers’ legacy systems to gain personal financial information on shoppers. In a general statement to retailers everywhere, the FBI implored every database manager to prepare their systems for malicious attacks for when they occur, not if.

Neiman Marcus says data breach may affect up to 1.1 million cards,” Fox News –  Neiman Marcus found itself in dubious company with retail behemoth Target as both have been involved in front-page-worthy security breaches. Fox News reported that while the breach was smaller in scale compared to Target’s massive leak of 42 million users’ data, the fact that malicious code was active within Neiman Marcus’ database was a cause for concern. The implication from the insertion of malicious code signals that there could be many more retailers inadvertently feeding customer info to criminals everywhere.

Retail in the age of Amazon: Scenes from an industry running scared,” Washington Post – Described as a “tentacular behemoth,” retailers everywhere are justified in their concern that Amazon just might swallow every business whole as it continues to grow. At NRF’s Big Show in NYC, one of the keynote speeches implored merchandisers to compete where Amazon cannot, particularly within the human experience. And I think this recommendation nails what every in-store retailer can do to face Amazon’s clout: Let your customers discover, purchase and have your products delivered anywhere they please. Make your physical stores into interactive fun zones for people to want to experience regardless of whether or not they’re aiming to buy your products. And, meanwhile, learn as much about the people buying from you as possible.

Amazon Patents “Anticipatory” Shipping — To Start Sending Stuff Before You’ve Bought It,” TechCrunch – Amazon is going back to the future. Last week, Amazon announced that it would begin sending products to consumers before they even ask for them. Amazon will use your previous searches and purchases, your wish list, “how long the user’s cursor hovers over an item online” in order to determine what to send. Amazon admits that their program could lead to an uptick in return purchases, but they believe sending items to you promotionally could build goodwill. In a few years, that Amazon drone tapping your window might be bringing the gift that you always wanted but never ordered.