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Big-name business applications vendors—Microsoft, Oracle, Lawson and (on the business intelligence front) Cognos each made a splash with new software announcements at the National Retail Federation’s Big Show event in New York on Jan. 16.

The bevy of new offerings could help businesses in the retail sector move forward with electronic initiatives.

Microsoft, for example, announced the 2.0 version of its Dynamics POS (Point of Sale) suite of software aimed at making it easier for retailers to extend their storefront online with such functionality as online invoicing and the ability to link to PayPal and eBay marketplace selling.

POS 2.0 also offers roles-based design and integrates with Microsoft Office Accounting Professional 2007 software.

For smaller retailers—and in conjunction with First Data and HP—Microsoft also announced an out-of-the-box POS and payment suite that is designed to replace a cash register and dial-up connection to the Internet with a PC-based POS system and high-speed Internet connection.

“Our vision of offering small and midsized retailers powerful and affordable technology innovation that drives strategic value is a reality,” said Satya Nadella, corporate vice president of the Microsoft Business Solutions Group, in a statement.

Oracle announced three new retail applications—Oracle Retail Merchandising Standard Edition, Promotion Optimization and Returns Management—all focused on helping retailers improve their financial performance through automation.

The Retail Merchandising SE suite—essentially a scaled-down version of Oracle Retail Merchandising System—is geared toward midmarket retailers that want to quickly (and relatively cheaply) implement a merchandising system; Oracle designed new tool sets and accelerators to help users standardize data conversions, business processes and configurations.

Oracle’s Retail Promotion Planning and Optimization software, on the other hand, is an application geared toward helping retailers better understand what drives customer demand—and the effectiveness of past promotions—and combines planning, forecasting and analytics to provide metrics on both fronts.

Finally, the Oracle Retail Returns Management application is designed to help retailers better process returns across stores and channels through functionality like real-time return authorization, or customer screening.

Lawson Software took a more segmented approach with the release of its namesake QuickStep Fashion, the company’s second industry-specific, pre-configured ERP (enterprise resource planning) package.

The idea with QuickStep is to make key information visible across an organization, with the goal of eliminating islands of information.

The Fashion suite is designed for companies in the apparel, footwear, home textiles and accessories sectors—particularly those that have a design, source and distribution model, or manufacturers with complex issues like managing wide product ranges with short lifecycles and high order volumes.

Read more here about e-tailers’ load handling.

Finally, BI software provider Cognos announced the availability of its namesake Strategic Merchandising Planning Blueprint designed to help retail chains improve their planning for merchandise sales, margin and gross profit by division, channel, department or category through a performance management framework that includes metrics and reporting.

The promotions planning blueprint is the fourth such offering launched by Cognos in the past year. The others include blueprints for store operations planning, store development and promotions planning.

“Retailers have traditionally experienced difficulty in planning, managing and evaluating merchandise performance for a variety of reasons—limited modeling and forecasting abilities; functional and information silos; and poor plan synchronization between top-down and bottom-up processes,” said Patricia Vekich Waldron, retail industry director at Cognos.

“Our new Blueprint delivers the kind of enhanced visibility retailers need to accurately and swiftly respond to inevitable fluctuations in merchandise supply and demand.”

Check out’s for the latest news, views and analysis on technology’s impact on retail.