We heard Oracle managers held a four-hour strategy meeting to discuss its super-important retail division

Mark Hurd speakingOracleMark Hurd addressing the Oracle troops

We just heard that Oracle’s senior management sales team held a four-hour strategy pow wow over the company’s plans to sell software and hardware to retail companies, a huge and important market.

The meeting didn’t include the CEO in charge of sales, Mark Hurd, but the rumour is that Hurd is now involved.

Among the concerns: Oracle will soon have a new competitor in retail, Infor, run by former Oracle president Charles Phillips.

Infor has been successfully poaching some VP-level salespeople from Oracle’s retail unit, the company confirmed to us.

Infor Charles PhillipsBusiness Insider/Julie BortInfor CEO Charles Phillips

Oracle doesn’t break out sales figures for its retail unit, but it is one of its big success stories. Remember, Oracle spent $US5 billion about a year ago on Micros, its largest acquisition in years, to boost its sales with with the retail and hospitality industries.

Infor competes with SAP and Oracle in an area known as enterprise resource planning (ERP) software.

That’s the financial software that runs a company’s business. Infor’s claim to fame is extreme specialisation. For instance, it has a version just for bakers, one for brewers, one for shoemakers, and so on.

Oracle has been No. 2 to SAP in this market for decades, a fact that has goads the ulta-competitive Oracle senior exec team. CEO Safra Catz recently described their feeling about it like this: “Silver medal is the first loser.” Infor at one point claimed to be No. 3 in this market.

A person close to Infor tells us that the company is just about to make a big announcement in retail.

We understand that this is some sort of product announcement and a big new retail customer with $US10 billion in revenue.

Infor confirmed it had created a dedicated retail business under Corey Tollefson, which the company poached from Oracle in December.

Infor’s retail talent poaching is a no brainer

Infor senior vice president Corey TollefsonInforInfor senior vice president Corey Tollefson

The exodus of people to Infor isn’t surprising, given Phillips’ close ties to Oracle.

When Phillips joined Infor as CEO in 2010, he hired a few of his favourite execs away from Oracle, too, including Duncan Angove. Angove came to Oracle when it acquired retail software company Retek in 2005, outbidding SAP for it. Angove then created and led the Oracle Retail unit.

There’s been a slow dribble of former salespeople joining Infor for years, according to a search on LinkedIn.

In recent months, poaching has stepped up in the executive ranks from Oracle’s retail sales unit.

In addition to Tollefson, now leading Infor’s retail business, a few more VPs have now left Oracle’s retail sales team for Infor, including Nick Ciminillo who left Oracle in March, Randy Ray, who joined Infor in June, and now Richard Berger who hasn’t yet announced the move on his LinkedIn page (but we’ve confirmed with people close to Infor). And they are bringing some of their favourite salespeople with them.

Meanwhile Ciminillo has been put in charge of running Infor’s retail strategy. While he was at Oracle, he spent some time serving on Walmart’s Innovation Council.

The stakes are high for Oracle: the company’s stock is trading at near 52-week lows and only partly because of the market’s free-fall last week.

The company has never recovered from its Q4 earnings in June when it whiffed on both revenue and profit expectations. Management blamed the strong dollar and Oracle’s transformation to the cloud computing subscription/sales model. But investors remain nervous because the Q4 is traditionally Oracle’s strongest, as salespeople close deals to make their annual quotas.

Having a tough new competitor in one of its most critical business areas would increase the pressure. Then again, Oracle thrives on competition and pressure.

Oracle declined comment.

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