Leaders of the retail industry gathered in New York on Monday to discuss and seek innovative and creative ways to approach their customers in the wake of falling consumer spending due to the economic downturn.

Generally, retailers saw the need to become indispensable for consumers and work with the government to help ease the economic situation at the 2008 meeting of the National Retail Federation annual convention, which runs through January 14.

Among them, Wal-Mart CEO Lee Scott told retailers they need to get involved in broader issues including health care, immigration, energy independence and environmental sustainability, the Associated Press reported.

As businesses we have a responsibility to society. We also have an extraordinary opportunity, Scott said according to the source.

Stacy Janiak, vice chairman and U.S. retail leader for Deloitte encouraged retailers to structure their businesses around the customers suggesting they could provide not just products but also services.

Standing still is not an option, she said, explaining retailers can make on-site clinics and grocery stores offering a family meal-planning tool, for example.