In New York today, retail professionals are gathered for The National Retail Federation's annual conference. After a tepid holiday season, retailers will not be reflecting on a pleasant 2012. - 

The retail industry is gathered in New York City today for the National Retail Federation’s annual conference. It’s a tough time for retail -- the holidays weren’t very merry and sales were disappointing. But as retailers look ahead to this year, it's the future that's got them worried, namely the number of us now using smartphones.  

"It used to be that customers were on their computers, but now their computer’s in their hands," says the National Retail Federation's Susan Newman. "They’re shopping on the computer while they’re shopping in the real store."

Price comparisons and ordering the product from a competitor are just a click away and the downward price pressure is on says retail consultant and writer, Kevin Coupe.

"Everyone’s sort of looking in their rear view mirror to make sure Amazon or Walmart is not coming at them," says Coupe. "They're asking, how do I cut costs while, at the same time, be a more compelling shopping experience for the consumer?"

Retailers also have to offer shoppers something unique to buy says innovation expert Louis Foreman, CEO of Everyday Edisons and one of the speakers at the National Retail Federation conference.

"They’ve got to come up with new and innovative products, products that you can’t find everywhere," says Foreman. "Retailers really need to give consumers a reason to go to their store."


Follow Stacey Vanek Smith at @svaneksmith