NEW YORK -- The National Retail Federation has acquired the Association for Retail Technology Standards, a retailer-led group seeking to establish open-systems standards that will help create "plug-and-play" technology environments.
"ARTS needs a full-time staff and a greater international presence," said Richard Mader, the association's chairman and chief information officer at Boscov's Department Stores, Reading, Pa. The acquisition by the NRF will allow the ARTS "to fulfill its mission," he added.
The Washington-based NRF approved the ARTS acquisition during its Annual Convention and Expo, held here Jan. 17 to 20. The ARTS, with approximately 250 retailer and technology vendor members, will continue to be managed by its own board of directors, but the acquisition will provide revenues for the ARTS' standard-setting activities.
The drive for more open technical standards could have a widespread effect on the hardware and software used by supermarkets, especially in the point-of-sale area.
"Open standards are definitely a plus," said Gene Grabowski, vice president of communications at the Grocery Manufacturers of America, Washington. While noting that the GMA has not looked at this technology issue in great depth, he added that "any time you have a standard it makes things easier."
Regarding the NRF's acquisition of the ARTS, Grabowski said the smaller association's ability to provide technological content and expertise would be helpful to the NRF's various educational efforts.
"While the NRF is not a power in grocery retailing, if they are looking to beef up their resources it could make [the association] more attractive to retailers," he said.
The ARTS, founded in 1993, first discussed merging with the NRF this past fall. At that time, Mader called for a coordinated standards-setting effort among various industry organizations, such as the Voluntary Interindustry Commerce Standards Association, Washington; the National Association of Convenience Stores, Alexandria, Va.; and the Uniform Code Council, Dayton, Ohio.
"A standard isn't a standard when it's written, it's a standard when it's adopted and monitored to protect both the retailer and the manufacturer," said Mader at the NRF convention.