It’s not an easy time for retailers, and by proxy it’s a particularly challenging time for retail IT directors.

It’s not an easy time for retailers, and by proxy it’s a particularly challenging time for retail IT directors. While budgets get smaller, multichannel and international trading continue to represent the best hopes for training success – meaning expectations for the IT department keep growing.

The challenges surrounding international trade are myriad. Not only must IT staff work in a foreign environment, they must provide services that are robust enough to support a costly expansion project in countries that have different processes and sometimes flaky infrastructures. In this supplement, we look at the challenges inherent in facilitating international trading from a technical point of view, and discuss how retailers are overcoming them.

There are new developments on the home front, too – mobile commerce is starting to take off in earnest, and any retailer keen to keep hold of a quickly evolving consumer now has an interesting job on their hands. With m-commerce still so new, and with costs relatively low, the opportunity is there to come up with exciting, innovative ideas. As our assessment of retail’s use of the channel shows, retailers are not disappointing users in their quest to become mobile – the best are now doing some very clever things.

Mobile isn’t the only game-changing technology to have arrived in the last five years. Almost every month, someone launches a clever new service or does something new with an old idea. The hype surrounding some technologies can obscure their true value, but there are brilliant ideas in amongst the marketing chatter – and some of them stick around long enough to have a real impact on the way retailers do business. The most important technologies to have hit the industry in the past few years range from self-service scanners to GPS-enabled phones, and are set to continue shaping the retail landscape. The implications of these technologies are far reaching, and their possible uses are endless.

But it’s not all about future gazing and innovative IT – day to day, IT teams have altogether more pressing concerns. One director whose life has been a long list of tense deadlines over the past year is Whistles IT chief David Mold. After successfully detaching the retailer from its former owner, Aurora Fashions, we speak to him about what he’s done, what he learnt and what’s next for the fashion retailer as it embarks on its plans for multichannel trading and ecommerce improvements. The Whistles project epitomises the kind of balancing act many IT chiefs must perform today: making sure the company’s IT is robust while readying the business for the demands of the next generation of shoppers.