IT services and solutions for retail and hospitality


  • 13 Nov

Guest Blog: Marketing Officer Placement

Life as Retail Assist’s Marketing Officer Meet Benedict, our Marketing Officer, who has been with us at Retail Assist since July. Benedict is an economics undergraduate from Nottingham Trent University undertaking a yearlong placement with the company. I was ecstatic to be chosen for this placement, but it was a scary jump at the same time. My knowledge base was economics, and I lacked any knowledge in marketing, but I was keen to broaden my horizons. To my relief, Retail Assist was a breath of fresh air after 2 years of study, especially since my creative side was feeling undernourished. Day to day I’ve really enjoyed overseeing the company’s social media, through managing it, I’ve seen how the B2B side of social media works, something that I wouldn’t have learned without being in the industry. I’m grateful to be respected and trusted to represent one of the faces of the company; allowing me to put on my creative hat every week and come up with new angles and messages to talk about our products and services has been useful. It also means that attention to detail is one of the key skills I have developed. The other half of my job, research, surprised me in how much I enjoyed it. Market research has been great for building my industry knowledge; reading about retail technology, the movements in the market, and searching for good prospect companies. All this has taught me that I’m really interested in what keeps retail ticking and moving forward, as it’s an extremely fast paced industry. Life at Retail Assist The team I work with are very professional, it’s been great learning from them all; even if I’m not involved with everything they are doing, I’ve been exposed to the entire sales and marketing process from end to end. As a placement student, my team understand that I’m still learning, all remembering when they were in a similar position to myself which has made me feel welcome. Enjoying drinks at Hockley Arts Club with the team The Retail Assist working environment is so vibrant, the open plan office encourages me to work closely with my colleagues, who are all really sociable and good to chat with. Even when I’ve got work to do, it’s always good to be up to date on Love Island… The social side also continues after work, everyone is up for going out for the occasional team drink. Getting a placement in Nottingham city centre worked out perfectly for me, I’m able to remain involved in university life which I understand is a luxury, as many other placement students end up in different cities. This meant that I didn’t have to give up being the president of the uni climbing club, I got to live with my friends in a cheap city centre flat, and of course I was still able to make it to the occasional Ocean social. Despite the occasional stress on a few deadlines (marketing really means you have to…
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  • 6 Feb

What is the difference between Augmented and Virtual Reality?

Guest blog by Sufyan Quraishy Last week, Retail Assist had the opportunity to attend an Enabling Innovation programme at Nottingham Trent University. The workshop was delivered by Nottingham based company Hot Knife Digital Media which has expertise in designing and delivering 2D/3D animation and video, Virtual Reality, Augmented Reality and App development. The event was meant as a taster to introduce these standard and emerging technologies with minimum investment; how they might be used to develop innovative processes in 3D visualisation, information sharing, and marketing. What is Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality? Augmented Reality (AR) simply put is enhancing one’s current perception of reality in real time. This can be as simple as overlaying an arrow on a football pitch to show how many yards a free kick is from goal or as used more recently by retailers thanks to the advancements in technology that has brought AR on to smart phones and thus allows both the retailers – to create and bring to life a 3D render of their product and consumers – to see a 360 degree image of the product, with the capabilities to zoom in and out of each angle. Depending on the quality of augmentation, this can go as far as indicating the approximate size of the item, allowing the consumer to ‘wear’ the item, as viewed through their phone. See how Microsoft’s HoloLens seamlessly blends high- definition holograms with the real world. One great example shown at the workshop was how the singer Ariana Grande has used the App ‘Blippar’ with 65 million users worldwide to market and bring her latest fragrance to life. Blippar offers a very easy entrance to AR with low costs and uses the camera on your smartphone or tablet to recognise an image to then bring to life, showing ‘dynamic digital content’. This can be information, news, social media content and even games for example, right on top of your image. Don’t believe me? Try “blipping” this image using the App – ‘Blippar’ (make sure your phone is landscape).  Not only has AR been introduced into the retail sector, it has also been making progress in the Hospitality market. Check out our Head of Marketing at Retail Assist, Alex Broxson showcasing how Marriott Hotels uses AR technology to enhance customer experience in a new location. There are other free apps such as “Aurasma” – downloaded by 8million users and was recently used by Argos in their catalogues, mainly aimed at children, to get them playing with products and interactive games before they buy the product. However Argos has recently pulled the wire on this in their catalogues, showcasing the difficulties still faced in introducing this new tech into the market. Also as pointed out at the workshop, “AR is nothing without the content, you need something good to be able to augment over”. So if Augmented Reality is enhancing what we are currently seeing, what is Virtual Reality? Virtual Reality (VR) usually refers to computer technologies that totally immerse…
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  • 7 Jul

Paperchase for Wedding Stationary – Guest Blog

We are very lucky to be able to welcome back our guest blogger, Charlie, who has previously blogged for us regarding the prefect wedding guest list and how to find the ideal bridesmaid dress. This time she is back and talking about wedding stationary, focussing on our customer Paperchase. To read more of Charlie’s ‘Dainty Bride’ blogs visit her page by clicking here. Wedding stationary is such a key part to planning your wedding. It will inform all of your guests of key details of the day and also help to state a theme! Currently I haven’t told any of my guests anything about the theme that I shall be having at my own wedding, but I have been sending hints via my ‘Save the Dates’ and ‘Wedding Invites.’ Sneaky huh?! I’ve been browsing in various shops and on websites for a while now and have found that Paperchase have a lot to offer! As it’s a high street brand it’s easy to call in and have a good hunt around, being able to see things in the flesh really helps you to get a better idea if the items are right for you. But failing that, if your pushed for time, everything is also available via their website, which makes it not only convenient but also a good research tool. These ‘Woodland Laser Cut Invitations’ are by far my favourite. They’re so cute and rustic with just the right amount of detail. These invites would be perfect for those who want to create an outdoor “barn” style wedding, so hay bales at the ready! They’re also pretty reasonably priced, coming in at £10.00 for 10 invites. The next invites I came across were a complete contrast in design to the ones I previously looked at, with a more modern and sophisticated feel. I love the different colours that go through the geometric pattern. They’re rather simple in design but seeing as they’re £3.25 for 10 in the sale, who cares?! Definitely one for us bargain brides. Paperchase also stock place cards and I fell in love with these vintage style butterfly ones as soon as I saw them. Also stocking a variety pens, you can shop until your heart’s content to find the perfect colour to write on your guests names. (£2.00 for 10) If you’re more of a creative person and fancy putting your own stamp on your place cards then Paperchase also offer a variety of plain card for you to get inventive with. You can either buy the card already cut to size or buy larger pieces of card for a more DIY job! Finally, they also offer a variety of decorations which are so cute! You can buy some that are in keeping with the theme of your…
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  • 4 Jun

Coast for Bridesmaid Dresses – Guest Blog

We are delighted to welcome back a previous guest blogger, Charlie. You may remember last time she wrote a great wedding guest list feature from our customer The White Company. Well she is back and this time targeting the subject of bridesmaid dresses. To read more of Charlie’s ‘Dainty Bride’ blogs visit her page by clicking here. Looking for bridesmaids dresses is a tricky job! You have a bunch of girls of different ages, different body shapes, styles and desires! I mean, where are you meant to start? Coast, that’s where! This season Coast has a great range on offer. It’s a very diverse range, catering to all shapes, sizes and ages and all manage to encapture the spring vibe perfectly. Needless to say it has been tough whittling down my list of favourites. Below you will find a selection of my top picks, all of which are currently available to view on the Coast website. First up is the ‘Andrica Short Dress’ in mint green. Mint green is the perfect colour for a spring wedding, it is fresh and pretty and definitely a very on trend colour. The halter neck is something you don’t often see on a bridesmaids dress but I think it would work really well, especially with the shorted style skirt making it very fun and flirty, perfect for younger bridesmaids. The halter neck also makes the dress stand out from the crowd and provides more support than a strapless, allowing your bridesmaids to dance the night away in comfort and style. Next is the ‘Mirabella Short Dress’ in lemon yellow. This dress comes in another perfect spring colour, but a shade of yellow that won’t overwhelm even the fairest of skin tones. It’s a more ‘classic’ style than the previous, so will suit a range of body shapes, but again with a shorter hem line making it a playful piece. I’m a big lover of lace so I was instantly drawn to this ‘Lori Lee Lace Short Dress’ in coral pink. The lace over the bodice makes it a very delicate and feminine piece. The ribbon around the waist helps to break up the texture of the fabric and thus helps to draw in the waist area. This dress will flatter any shape and is the perfect colour for a hot summer wedding, with an evening spent drinking pimms & partying the night away. Another favourite of mine is the ‘Lily-Anna Dress’ in a midnight blue. This dress cuts a very classic and elegant silhouette. The colour is absolutely gorgeous, very rich and warm; it would be the perfect choice for a Christmas or winter wedding. The ‘A’ line shape will also be very flattering for bridesmaids with an hourglass figure, hugging in at all the right places. So far, I have only chosen knee length dresses as I tend to prefer the shorter styles, however I did see this ‘Lori Lee Maxi Dress’ that I instantly loved. This dress is a similar style to…
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  • 14 May

A White Company Gift List – Guest Blog

This week I would like to introduce you to our guest blogger, Charlie, who blogs about  anything bridal and lifestyle related. More of Charlie’s blogs can be found here. She has written a blog about one of our customers, The White Company, highlighting the perfect presents for any wedding gift list. The White Company is one of the UK’s fastest-growing multichannel retailers and we have been working with them since 2008. They were looking for a service that could be cost-effective, responsive and maintain a stable environment, whilst providing the capabilities of expansion. This is where we came in, providing on-site hardware maintenance for their tills and PC’s. We also manage store maintenance calls via our Help Desk, provide an account management service and are responsible for call management through to resolution. So, over to our guest blogger Charlie… Introduction: Creating a list of beautiful gifts is always exciting, but add in the fact that it’s for your wedding and you can choose them from ‘The White Company’ and it makes it seem all the more special! I absolutely adore ‘The White Company.’ Everything from perfume to bed throws to clothes. It’s so classic, simple and makes you feel amazing. I’ve started to have a look round different retailers to get an idea of what sort of thing I would want on my wedding gift list & have come across these beauties whilst looking in ‘The White Company.’ 1. Towels Towels Everyone needs some towels for their newly married life! The good thing about these is that they are come in either white or nude depending on the decor of your house, plus the towels are available in every size so you can create a complete set. For example; face cloth, hand towel, bath towel, bath sheet & jumbo bath sheet.                     2. Plates These plates are really multifunctional! They look really pretty as a decoration, stacked up like the photo, as well as being great for serving food at dinner parties or special occasions. You don’t have to buy them altogether either which is good as you don’t feel forced in to buying unwanted items, plus you can mix and match your sets for a more unique look. There are other pieces in this range, so rest assured if you’re one of those people who likes everything to match, you will have no problems with this collection. 3. Candles & Fragrance I always love having my house smelling fresh and fragrant so I feel like these are a perfect wedding gift for a couple. Again, you can buy them individually or if you wanted to splash out a bit, you could even buy them all; needless to say you will not be disappointed with whichever scent you receive! They’re a good shape, size & colour to fit in with most house decor and I can imagine, will be quickly used up! 4. Bedding This throw is incredible! I mean, who…
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  • 27 Aug

Guest Post: “The Latest Twitter Trends Among Retailers”

This week’s blog post was contributed by Ellie Burns, a work experience student with a bright future in Fashion Communications and Promotion. Ellie has her own blog, ‘Ellie’s Favourite Things’ which can be found by clicking here. Scrolling through twitter recently, I took account of the way in which brands are currently using social media to connect with their customers.  At that time, Alexon were wondering  if  ‘the classic #lbd or a bright #floraldress’ would be taking over their customer’s wardrobe this summer. Meanwhile, Cath Kidston hosted the competition #BirdsvsSpots to win an ‘Everyday Bag’ as a way to interact with customers and to raise awareness of their Twitter profile, while Harvey Nichols appeared to be taking an approach that combined global celebrity news (‘Beyoncé goes for the crop’) with independent stories, telling us their most popular products as they hit ‘the headlines in fashion, beauty, food & wine’ -a way of turning their website into more than just an online shop, and perhaps making it more of a social hub to stay updated and connected. This is a very clever way of keeping customers engaged, and of attracting new customers through subtle marketing messaging delivered inbetween current news stories. It would appear that more and more are using Twitter as a customer services tool, too, cutting back on waiting time and allowing customers an extra avenue of communication. No longer is it necessary to spend hours listening to an old Coldplay song on repeat whilst we wait for someone to answer the customer services line- things have turned instant. Many brands that work with Retail Assist, like Cath Kidston (@CK_lovetolisten), New Look (@NewLookHelp) and many more, now use Twitter as a customer service as well as a marketing tool, enabling customers to have instant advice and help in under 140 characters using the online social networking service, bringing the in store, sales assistant role online. With 26% of all purchases set to be done online by 2016 (according to the BBC) many other companies are using their Twitter as a way to simply communicate with customers , grow the brand and improve the buying experience. How do you use Twitter? What do you think is the best approach?…
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  • 19 Aug

Guest Post: “The Latest Trend In Retail”

This week’s blog post was contributed by Ellie Burns, a work experience student with a bright future in Fashion Communications and Promotion. Ellie has her own blog, ‘Ellie’s Favourite Things’ which can be found by clicking here. When working in retail, it is important to keep on top of the ever changing trends that make people go ‘ooh.’ With the high street being painted as ‘in crisis’ since the internet boom, doing research into what will sell is paramount.  By looking through stores that work with us here at Retail Assist, we can see that many retailers are taking inspiration from the recent birth of the royal baby, Prince George Alexander Louis, and the Royal Family. For example, Mint Velvet recently compared two fashion icons, Kate Moss and Kate Middleton, writing on their Facebook page, ‘there’s only one Kate M who’s queen of the style stakes’ as they talked about subtly stylish trends. Moreover,  Card Factory also took inspiration from recent events in order to promote their new baby shower gifts, whilst Dash Fashion gave their Facebook readers a ‘royal treat’ with 22% off all full price styles to celebrate the new arrival. The Royals and the idea of being sophisticated and high-status could also be contributing to many brands in how they promote products. This is shown by Mainline Menswear as they tweeted about ‘clothes designed by a ‘sir’’, when talking about a Paul Smith clothing range; as well as The White Company describing their loungewear as having a ‘silky soft blend’ and being ‘luscious’, and Mint Velvet describing their clothes as being ‘traditional pieces,’ all adding to the luxurious feel. Furthermore, it seems that the Duchess of Cambridge is not only a wife, mother and princess- but a trendsetter, too! We love her sophisticated yet fashionable taste as she mixes her favourite designers with the high-street. With stores going into melt down with whatever Kate, and now baby George, wears, retail sales have been booming. We think Kate would love this casual, double layer dress from Whistles and this super summery wisteria print dress from Mint Velvet…and what for the baby? We’ve picked out our favourite fashion items fit for a prince too! Have you noticed a royal theme hitting the high street? Have you been swept up by baby fever?…
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  • 22 Jul

Influencing Sustainable Behaviour

This week’s blog post was contributed by Hannah Tulley, a recent Retail Buying graduate from De Montfort University. In June Hannah started her career as a Garment Technologist for a UK based fashion supplier. As part of her contract she will be spending 3 months in Hong Kong and 3 in Bangladesh. This piece is based on her latest research. After centuries of denial, the human race has become aware of the detrimental effects their actions have had on the wellbeing of the planet, and are trying to make it right.  In recent years governments have encouraged more conscious living, set out plans to reduce CO2 emissions, minimise waste and recycle, alongside fairer working conditions and more ethical sourcing and production. In the fashion industry there is currently work being carried out to ensure that manufacturing and distribution is as ethical as possible, but is enough consideration being made for when the garments leave the store? Consumers claim to care about the impact of their purchasing decisions but in reality they are, in the majority of cases, driven by price, convenience and style. So, what happens when products leave the realms of the company? And how can brands try to influence positive sustainable behaviour? It could be argued that it is the responsibility of the retailer to make consumers aware of the impacts of what they are buying. To make an impression, garments need to be designed to suit their purpose – high fashion pieces that only stick around for a season should be manufactured in fabric that is easy to care for but also fully recyclable back to source, just as cross-seasonal staples should be more hardwearing. Collaborations of government schemes and household brands have always been successful, getting a serious message across with a friendly stamp to entice the market. Encouraging sustainable practice during the washing and use phase of the garment is an ideal opportunity for the government to head up a ‘Wash at 30⁰’ campaign with the help of high street retailers, detergent companies and energy providers. For example a government marketing campaign combined with matching labelling and a good ad campaign from the likes of ASOS, Karen Millen and White Stuff would reach the target market and the message would be reinforced by each of the parties involved. There is only so much that the retailer can do themselves, but encouraging sustainable behaviour from their customers would be a very positive step to take. As consumers we are driven by price and the need for the latest fashions. Our attitudes need to adjust to make the products truly sustainable from start to finish.…
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  • 9 Jul

Shopping In Store vs Shopping Online by Rowen Aston

This week’s blog post was contributed by Rowen  Aston, a work experience student that loves to shop. Rowen’s insight into the retail experience offers a unique perspective often not covered in the press- that of a 15 year old. “Many people say shopping online is the way forward, but I much prefer going in to stores myself. Doing this makes it much easier to browse different sections without having to tackle hundreds of tops before finding that one top I really want, and shops are mostly nicely decorated, giving them a better environment than online, and setting a scene for the clothes and products they are selling. I rarely shop alone, and usually go with friends or older siblings. This allows me to look at things I may not normally, and a second opinion is always helpful. When I shop online it is usually because I have found something in store that I liked, but my size was unavailable. With all of the filtering options available online items are easily found, making it easy to quickly get hold of what I want. I definitely find shopping online more convenient; there are no queues and no unwelcoming staff. In terms of my favourite places to shop, I love ASOS. I like them because they show their products on models, giving me an idea of what it will look like on me, as well as giving ideas about what I could wear items with. They sell a wide range of clothing in many different styles so I can shop for many things without having to visit lots of different sites – plus they always have great offers on. The ASOS Marketplace, especially, is not only good for people who are looking for interesting and unusual clothes, but also a great place for people to sell clothing in a community environment. My past experiences with ASOS Marketplace have been very good, much like eBay the sellers have ratings that have been given by people that have bought from them, providing a reliable review. As the amount of people shopping online increases, the amount of people shopping in stores may decrease, so it is important for stores that do not yet have an online presence to begin the shift to trading online. I think reviews are very important and make shopping online an easier, and more relaxing experience. However, if I had to choose between shopping online and shopping in store I’d choose in store every time. It’s fun to shop with other people, and there’s an atmosphere in store that you just don’t get with the internet.”   – image source…
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  • 10 Jun

The Importance and Challenges of Integrated Communication

This week’s blog post was contributed by Hannah Tulley, a recent Retail Buying graduate from De Montfort University. In June Hannah is starting her career as a Garment Technologist for a UK based fashion supplier. As part of her contract she will be spending 3 months in Hong Kong and 3 in Bangladesh. This piece is based on her latest research. Effective communication is of paramount importance in any industry to ensure efficiency, and fashion is no exception. Complex consumers make for complex retailers and an intricate supply chain. With endless styles and options, and advancing technology, the consumer demand is increasing in speed and the retailers and suppliers have to work hard to satisfy it. To add to the usual pressures of cost and time ethical and environmental impacts must also be considered – making the whole process a challenge to manage effectively. As other industries have grown, technological advancements have been utilised to streamline the processes and allow for easier management, however the world of fashion seemed to miss the memo. Research carried out with UK based fashion suppliers showed that a large proportion actually had no form of software solution in place to aid with management of the critical path. The majority of those that did have one in place did not find it effective and still manually updated spread-sheets and self-generated reports. These methods, whilst previously effective, are incredibly time consuming and involve duplication and therefore a high potential for human error. The retailers did all have computer systems but some were very dated, not providing real time data which is essential in such a fast paced environment. A different person is responsible for the management of each stage throughout the critical path of a fashion product. Dependent on the product or the retailer there can often be multiple people involved from different parties at each step. Due to this it is important that all information is centrally stored with access permissions for those who require to either input, view and/or extract data effectively rather than copying it from varying sources. Regardless of whether a retailer considers themselves multi-channel, omni-channel or ‘big data’ a centralised system is beneficial for managing their supply base and delivering effectively to the consumers. A system like Retail Assist’s multichannel supply chain Merret can facilitate easy tracking of products through a single stock pool regardless of their location, using the latest cloud platforms to provide real-time data to both the retailers and the end consumers. This can result in incredibly fast delivery from warehouses or stores. To accompany this it can compile accurate analysis of the best and worst sellers to aid buying teams with forecasting decisions. Other programmes on the market from the likes of Gerber and Lectra can integrate their popular CAD and CAM programmes to aid smooth running of the earlier stages of the critical path. The more information that can be shared centrally in one location, the smaller the margin for error becomes and the less time…
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