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IT services and solutions for retail and hospitality

We’re Pinterested

  • 11 Nov

We’re Pinterested

Last year we dedicated an entire post to our love of Pinterest. This year, we still can’t get enough. A great tool for sharing a bit of our company personality, we use it primarily to share a bit of ourselves with our clients, and also to connect with retailers all around the world using beautiful images of the things we love – be it puppies, clothes, or quotes about shopping. In case you haven’t found us over there yet, we can be found by clicking here, and below is a summary of our 5 favourite boards. Celebrity Style: Because no-one does it better than a celebrity LBD: To help you find your perfect little black dress Retail Quotes: Because these words are from people that understand our love for shopping Food: We love to eat Office pets: Because we don’t have one, but we really, really want one… Happy pinning!…
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  • 30 Sep

A Vintage Promotional Video

Retail Assist entered its 15th year of trading this year, and as part of the celebration we’ve been digging through our archives for vintage marketing materials. Whilst watching old promotional videos a few weeks ago, we came across this gem, and looking at all of the old haircuts of people that are mostly still under the companies employment gave us a good laugh, as can be seen in this sneaky shot above. Aside from the retro styling of the staff, we found this video served as a quiet reminder of how far we have come. With many of the clients featured still working alongside us, and many of the staff members still here too, we are proud to say that we are a company that build strong and lasting relationships with both colleagues and clients alike. Let’s hope the people in this picture are here for the next 15 years, and for many more after that. We couldn’t do what we do without such a strong group of people that we know we can rely on.…
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  • 10 Sep

Mint Velvet New Store Openings

Ellie: This month, our client Mint Velvet will be opening their 12th standalone store. To mark the occasion, I am here today with Nigel Hodgkins, our Store Development Consultant, who has supported Mint Velvet store openings from the outset. So Nigel, could you tell me a bit more about this particular store opening please? Nigel: Yes of course Ellie. The new store is based in Reigate, a historic town in Surrey. Mint Velvet targets affluent market town locations in the main, and as you say, this will be the company’s 12th standalone store. The business also operates concessions in premium department stores such as House of Fraser and John Lewis however. Ellie: So how has Retail Assist been supporting the launch of new standalone stores exactly – could you talk me through a typical project from your perspective please? Nigel: We’re contracted to manage the installation of new store openings. So when Retail Assist is approached about a new store, firstly I will cost everything up. I will then order any hardware; which is built at Retail Assist’s Head Office by Gareth Thorley, the Infinity Guru, before being delivered to the store and fitted by Retail Assist Store Systems. We manage the installation of any phone lines via Vodat, and the chip and pin service via VeriFone. Mint Velvet use the Vodat Meraki WiFi solution in every store and have also introduced customer facing iPads into their stores. The latter will be fitted on the shop wall; throughout the process we work closely with shop fitters. We will then connect the iPad to the WiFi network so that customers are able to use it to browse the mintvelvet.co.uk online collection. Mint Velvet use Retail Assist’s supply chain solution Merret, which is integrated to their Infinity Point of Sale software. Whilst on site we will do a number of test transactions to check that the till is working properly before the store opens. Often we are working whilst stock is being delivered and staff are merchandising the store, so it’s rewarding to see the whole site coming together before our eyes. Ellie: That’s really interesting, so can you tell me what’s next on the agenda after the Reigate store has opened? Nigel: Mint Velvet are planning to open a further 4 standalone stores by the end of the year so I will also be working on these store openings. The locations for the additional stores are in Harrogate, York, Edinburgh and Beaconsfield. Ellie: Brilliant, thank you for your time Nigel. For more information about Retail Assist’s work with Mint Velvet, please visit our website.…
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  • 9 Jul

The Olympic Torch

  Ellie: As I’m sure everybody is aware, the Olympic Torch is currently travelling all over the United Kingdom. It has already visited Nottingham (home of Retail Assist’s Head Office) and Northampton (where our Data and Application Centres are based). Today it will be a stone’s throw from our Oxfordshire office, before visiting London (where many of our Aurora client services team are based) later this month. Today, I’m here with James T Lowe, Senior Analyst Developer at Retail Assist, who was lucky enough to speak with some with the Olympic Torch team last week. So James, where did you meet the team? James: It was at Rutland. While the torch was travelling over Rutland Water by boat, the convoy parked up in the car park. I think they allowed a bit of time for delays, etc. as they didn’t move until about 30 minutes after the flame landed on the South shore, so I had the opportunity to ‘mingle’ with the whole convoy team. It was fascinating to chat to the different bodies of the team. There’s about 350 people directly involved with the convoy; About half of the police outriders are Met Police; and half are provided by local forces. The rider I was chatting to was part of the ‘East Midlands’ shared police motorcycle resource; so about 10 bikes were supplied from the Lincolnshire, Leicestershire, Derbyshire, and Nottinghamshire police forces. They had been with the flame since the 27th June and with it up until the 4th July, but with days off over the weekend when it went to West Midlands. I spoke to one of the Metropolitan Police runner guards that run alongside the flame, too. On the 3rd July she was ‘flame guardian’ – but I noticed her on the BBC In Pictures for the 4th July, running alongside. Apparently they have four teams that rotate on duties. One day cycling, one day guardian, one day running and one day off. She explained that the Davy Lamp, holding the ‘mother flame(s)’ was quite old, and has been ‘adapted’ for the torch relay by having a hole cut in the glass to allow the flame to be lit (and extinguished for relighting from the torch) They had six of them on board the coach, so were taking no chances! The logistics of the whole thing was incredible; such a multi-agency event (police forces, county and local councils, private estates, etc.) It has been over a year in the planning, after all! It was a brilliant day out and amazing to think of all the places that single flame has travelled to in 10 weeks by the time it reaches Stratford.. Ellie: That’s great, thank you James. To find out more about the Olympic torch route, readers can visit: http://www.london2012.com/torch-relay/route/. More information about the location of Retail Assist’s offices is available at: http://www.retail-assist.co.uk/our-locations/.…
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  • 19 Mar

Online Only Shoppers

According to recent Shoppercentric research, young men seem to be exempt from most of the traditional clichés surrounding the male species and shopping. In a recent study, 22% of men aged 25-34 agreed with the statement that they love making shopping a social event. However the same study found that online is often the preferred channel for the male shopper. Apparently 54% of men browse the internet every couple of days, compared with 47% of women. A male acquaintance of mine (let’s call him A for the sake of anonymity) is 25, so falls into the lower end of the above age bracket. Living in a small town, he rarely visits clothes shops, and has instead purchased most of his clothes online ever since he started buying them for himself. Due to this, I discovered on a recent shopping trip with A that he was unaware of many of the traditional conventions of bricks and mortar stores, in the same way that my 80 year old grandmother is unaware of the process involved in buying clothes via an ecommerce website. During the shopping trip in question, A was looking for an outfit for a specific occasion, I dragged him to a busy town centre to track this down. A was reluctant to try anything on before buying it, as this is obviously something he is not used to doing when shopping online. Being bossy however, I suggested that he may as well, as we had plenty of time and it would reduce the likelihood of somebody having to return the items at a later date because the fit wasn’t right. Willing to give this new experience a try, A picked up more clothes than he actually needed and took them into the changing room. When A came out of said changing room and was asked by a shop assistant whether the items were any good, he replied “yes”. I was surprised by this, but assumed that he had fallen in love with the items so wanted to buy them all. When questioned however, A said that he didn’t want to purchase all of the clothes that he was carrying. When I enquired why he hadn’t given the unwanted items back to the shop assistant at the entrance to the changing room when prompted to; A looked completely baffled. Apparently he was unaware that this was standard practice in clothes shops, and assumed that if he didn’t want something he had tried on, he was expected to go and put it back in the exact spot where he had found it. When queuing up to buy a garment that he did want, A began to look agitated, and suggested that we go and line up elsewhere. Again, I wasn’t sure of the reason for this, as the queue wasn’t very long, so I thought that maybe there was somebody at the counter who A wanted to avoid. I discretely asked if this was the case, and A said no – it…
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  • 5 Mar

Mobile saves the… jacket!

A few weeks ago I experienced for myself how amazing mobile shopping can be. Our regular blogger, Ellie will no doubt already be laughing at me as she reads this, as she knows how much I love my technology, but m-commerce is exactly what inspired me to write this blog. At the time my partner was away in St Anton, Austria enjoying the après ski in a bar, and checked his Reiss jacket into the cloakroom. Later that night he handed in his cloakroom ticket to collect the jacket and found out that it had been lost. Now, my partner has a history of similar misdemeanours (losing jackets, leaving irons on, leaving the house unlocked, forgetting to put the handbrake on the car when parking on our sloped driveway etc) so I was a little hesitant in believing that ‘the bar’ had lost his jacket based on his track record! However before a blog is written about me and the things I’ve previously lost, I’d like to point out that I’m not denying ever doing anything similar… Returning the next day, still with his cloakroom ticket, my fiancé spoke to the bar owner who said that the jacket was definitely gone, but if my partner could provide him with the receipt after buying a new jacket, he would refund the money. Knowing full well that this was never going to happen once my fiancé had left the resort, I felt on a personal mission to replace the Reiss jacket and get the money back, as I was the one who had bought it for him in the first place. At the time of the lost jacket incident I was still in the UK but away at a friends house in Newcastle, so armed with nothing but my iPhone and bank card, I got on to the Reiss website on my phone. Sure enough, I found the coat – as even more of a bonus, it was in the sale. So after sending the link to the coat via ‘WhatsApp’ (an instant free messaging service app for iPhones) to my partner to double check it was the right one, I was able to proceed. I got it ordered, in the correct size, and colour, and arranged delivery to our house. As usual the email confirmation and e-receipt instantly arrived in my email inbox on my smartphone, which I forwarded on to my fiancé in Austria, so he could then pick it up on his iPhone. So that same afternoon, he walked to the bar where they had lost his coat, showed the manager the receipt on his phone, and managed to collect 120 Euros to refund the cost of the lost item, all thanks to the mobile shopping channel. This story demonstrates one of the benefits of the mobile channel in its ability to transmit information simply and seamlessly around the globe. Has a particular shopping channel saved the day for you… or even saved your future marriage?! Please post your…
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  • 7 Mar

Insights for future marketing technologies

Last week I attended the TFM&A (Technology for Marketing and Advertising) event at Earls Court, and picked up some really interesting and helpful marketing advice for businesses using today’s technologies. I wanted to share some of the highlights for consideration in retailer’s future marketing strategies. Whilst it may be no surprise the key topics were around social media, website optimisation, and e-marketing. The first keynote speaker of the day started with a key piece of advice for any business, suggesting: “If you do nothing else with social media, then use it to find out what people are saying about your brand”. He then moved on to App development.  Whilst App development is high on the agenda for many organisations, they are certainly not cheap to develop.  Some businesses are instead finding an existing App which suits the needs of their customer base, and simply sponsoring it to gain the full association and brand recognition, without the associated time and cost in development.  One rather amusing example was given.  It centered around an App called ‘Sit or Squat’ which showed a map with all the publicly available toilets. This App was sponsored by ‘Charmin’, (now Cushelle) a company who produce toilet rolls!  This allowed Crushelle to gain all the relevant branding benefits without a huge investment in App development. One of the highlights from the day had to be listening to the latest thinking from Facebook’s UK commercial Director, who began the session with some rather astonishing facts. Facebook has now reached 30 million active users in the UK The fastest growing demographic of Facebook users is those in the 35 years plus age bracket. With these types of figures, Facebook becomes an option for the majority of businesses, even those who need to target the (dare I say it!) older market segments, and wider demographics who were previously not Facebook users.  With the potential to communicate with half of the population, the reach of Facebook is just phenomenal. Additional news to me was the different ways in which businesses are now using Facebook Ads. This has particular value to retailers. There are now about 7 different types of ads which facilitate polling, requesting product samples, driving traffic to; the company website, facebook page, event, application or group, and adding the ‘Like’ link to ads which allows the advert to appear on the newsfeeds of friends to gain higher impressions and views of the advert.  As part of the growth in Facebook Ads the targeting tool to is now becoming even more accurate, and therefore companies are increasingly able to reach their desired market though Facebook’s very precise tools. Research based on user numbers of the Starbucks website vs their Facebook page suggested that in the future years, Starbucks may cease to have a website, as their Facebook page simply engages more customers, and the number of visitors to their Facebook page far outweighs their website visitors. In terms of website and online optimisation, it seemed that they key message was…
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  • 3 Dec

The curious incident of the router in the daytime

When it comes to technology, there should be a logical explanation for why things stop working, but every now and then something can happen which puzzles even the most hardened IT professional. This is one of those cases, and the story of what recently happened to Helen Wright, one of Retail Assist’s Systems Analysts, when faced with a seemingly faulty router at one of our client’s stores in Stillorgan. Time to set the scene.  The tale began when one of our client’s stores kept facing issues with a router failing to poll data.  At night, the offending article would work perfectly well and transfer all the data it needed to, but during the day this was simply not the case. The Store Manager had wracked their brain as to why this could be happening and had turned to Helen in desperation. After calling upon an onsite electrician, who was also unable to explain the situation, Helen was stumped. Not being the type to give up, she pondered her options from Retail Assist’s Nottingham Head Office and decided the best thing to do would be to ask the Store Manager to replicate their nightly routine. Being an environmentally-minded type of person, the Store Manager informed Helen that the last thing they did before locking up of an evening was switch out the lights. This minute detail sparked a light bulb of it’s own… but this time in Helen’s brain! Against all odds, Helen managed to work out that it was a small halogen light bulb which was interfering with the store’s polling. At night, this was switched off, hence the lack of disturbance. However during the day, once the bulb was fully charged and working at full capacity, it would wreak havoc with the store’s data transfer. Once the problem was identified, it was very easy to solve, as all the Store Manager needed to do was to replace the light bulb with another… so our client and their router lived happily ever after – all thanks to Helen!…
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