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IT services and solutions for retail and hospitality

INDUSTRY INSIGHTS

Retail Assist investment
  • 19 Jun

Retail Assist Turns 18

Retail Assist had its official “coming of age” last Friday, as the business celebrated its 18th year of trading. It’s a very significant milestone for the company, after attracting significant investment in March. With ambitious growth plans for Retail Assist, our Board of Directors (headed by Dan Smith) will take the business on to the next stage of its development. So, what’s changed in 18 years? Since 1999, when Retail Assist was founded, retail has evolved into a whole different proposition; technology is not just important to retailers, but the cornerstone of their operations. We have seen the relentless rise of ecommerce, the launch of click-and-collect as the poster-child for customer convenience, UK retailers going global, and key changes in approaches to the traditional bricks and mortar store (who knew they would end up becoming virtual distribution hubs for web orders through ship-from-store?) In the face of these sector shifts, Retail Assist has adopted its services and solutions to an omnichannel world: 24 x 7 “always on” provision, software design and development to drive changes in retail operations, and supporting the “buy anything, at anytime, anywhere” principle. We now support major clients in the hospitality sector too. As well as 8000 retail stores, we also support more than 700 restaurants, and over 90 cinemas in 66 countries across the world. Check out our industry award-winning Help Desk stats here. Compared with industry averages, we have 10% higher achievement of Service Level Agreements, 4 x more sites supported, double the number of languages spoken and 4 x more support capacity than industry average. To celebrate our 18th birthday, we invited clients and partners to a summer drinks event in Soho. You can see the pictures on Facebook here. Internally, all staff were presented with a bottle of fizz to enjoy over the warm weekend. Thank you to all our clients, business partners and colleagues for all your support over the last 18 years. Looking forward to the 21st!  …
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IT services and solutions
  • 19 Dec

A Year in Highlights: Retail Assist 2016

Reflecting on 2016, it’s been a fantastic year at Retail Assist. Check out a few of our annual highlights: from customer news, to innovative events, we’ve enjoyed supporting our customers’ successful omnichannel retail and hospitality operations, across the globe, 24 x 7 x 365. If you’re interested in any of the below highlights and want to know more, just get in touch via marketing@retail-assist.co.uk, to see how we could support you. January As with the start of every year, in January comes our annual trip to The National Retail Federation’s BIG Show and Expo (NRF) in New York. In 2016, we identified top 5 technology trends in vlogs live from the Expo Hall, which you can view on our YouTube channel and below. So, did we predict it correctly? We thought the top 5 realistic technologies at NRF 16 were Cognitive Computing, Virtual Reality, Wearables, RFID and Changing Room Tech. Virtual reality has definitely become more mainstream with the introduction of affordable gaming headsets from Sony just in time for Christmas. RFID and smart fitting rooms were showcased in a real, integrated retail setting at our retail technology pop-up, Nexpo, which you can read about in the September round-up below. We can’t wait to see what NRF 17 holds! If you’re going to NRF and would like to meet up whilst in New York, please get in touch via our NRF page here. March Karen Millen is just one of our customers benefiting from smart stock management technology in-store. We went to their Covent Garden store to capture the benefits of using our Merret Tablet Inventory solution in action, which you can view on Youtube here. The flexibility the solution gives to store staff is invaluable. Without being constrained by fixed terminals or outdated hand held devices, still able to walk the shop floor and interact with customers, store staff can do the following through Merret Tablet Inventory, as mentioned in the video: Process Inter branch transfers (create, send and receive) Receive stock from the warehouse Progress write on / off transaction Undertake a stock-take Carrying out these processes in response to real-time sales data, Merret allows effective movement of stock that is 100% visible and accurate, helping maximise stock availability by placing it where it is needed most. In this way, more profitable business decisions are made and actioned. Retailers can then fulfil more orders, and sell more stock at full price. You can read more about the solution on its dedicated webpage here. April It’s all about our Awards win of the year at the SDI Institute’s IT Service and Support Awards, where Retail Assist’s Help Desk won the global Best Managed Service Desk Award! This was a well-deserved recognition for our 24x7x365 IT Help Desk, which sits at the heart of Retail Assist to ensure our customers in retail, hospitality and leisure can trade with minimal disruption thanks to greater IT systems uptime. The SDI’s annual Awards identify the excellence of outstanding service desk teams and individuals,…
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retail technology news
  • 30 Aug

Latest Retail Technology News

It’s been a bumper August for Retail Assist retail technology news, so we wanted to bring you the latest in today’s blog. Harvey Nichols We were proud to announce news of our latest Merret upgrade project with iconic luxury brand, Harvey Nichols. We’ve supported them since 2004, and as the relationship continues it’s been fantastic to grow the brand’s omnichannel capabilities with Merret. In the latest version of Merret, based in the cloud, Harvey Nichols has experienced the benefits of real-time stock availability, allowing them to fulfil the omnichannel customer promise 24 x 7 across the globe. Technology Director, Fatima Zada, said: “The Merret upgrade provides much more in terms of scalability, as our international growth trajectory and ecommerce offer goes from strength to strength. Retail Assist facilitated our journey into omnichannel over 10 years ago, and the recent project has created a solid foundation for our growth vision going forward.” To read the full press release click here. Bidvest Logistics Although Bidvest is in the logistics sector, IT is a key driver of their business. As IT specialists, we’re supporting Bidvest to retain a competitive edge, enabling them to be agile and meet the demands of its customers, for example, servicing 12,000 deliveries a week. Our 24 x 7 IT Help Desk service also helps Bidvest reap the benefits of greater systems uptime. Bidvest renewed their Managed IT Services contract with us this year for another 5 years. Since virtualising Bidvest’s key server environment in 2013, we’ve supported Bidvest Logistics on numerous projects to improve performance and maximise productivity. In a project to upgrade disk storage for increased systems performance, Bidvest’s warehouse management system, Minster, experienced a 40% decrease in the time taken to complete overnight scheduling. In a recent server upgrade, we were also able to reduce Bidvest’s disaster recovery time from 4 hours to just 15 minutes. This has had a very significant impact, and represents just one of many benefits. To read the full press release click here. Oasis and Warehouse This summer we supported the launch of Oasis and Warehouse’s new websites, after re-platforming them on to Demandware. The new ecomm platform enhances the customer experience in new and sophisticated ways. Thanks to the single stock pool of our supply chain solution, Merret, Oasis launched ship-from-store in 2012 and gains stock visibility updates every 10-15 minutes. It really capitalises on this retail advantage through the new ‘shop by store’ online tool, where customers can search specific stores and concessions for available products with real-time inventory. “So if you’re researching to go to the Argyll Street store at lunch time, you can select black dresses, in a size eight, which are available in that store […] this is something I haven’t seen at any fashion retailers I’ve been shopping on – it’s valuable and it’s useful.” – Briony Garbett, Director of Digital at Oasis. Using stores as distribution hubs through ship-from-store has also delivered 20-30% incremental web sales for the brand. To read the full press…
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  • 12 Jul

New structure builds foundations for further growth at Retail Assist

Julian Woodall – HR Director; Dave Roberts – Managed Services Director; Dan Smith – CEO; Matthew Proudlove – CFO; Hazel Olivier – Solutions Director; Renato Pastorino – Client Director. A MIDLANDS business whose IT software and support are used by some of the biggest names in retail and hospitality is gearing up for growth with a new management structure. Retail Assist provides technology, support and expertise which ensures that retailers and well-known hospitality brands can meet customer demand in-store and online. Currently on course for its most successful trading year, the business has now set up a new Operational Board which has seen key staff step up to take on new responsibilities. The move has also seen a new face join the business – people development expert Julian Woodall, who becomes HR Director at Retail Assist. The Operational Board will complement Retail Assist’s Main Board, which is led by Chairman Alan Morris, CEO Dan Smith and CFO Matthew Proudlove. While the Main Board will focus on the long-term strategy of the business, the Operational Board has responsibility for day-to-day delivery. Explaining the new structure, Dan Smith said: “We’re going through an exciting transformation that comes with being an organisation that has grown from a small Nottingham and Northampton company into a multi-site business which underpins the IT operations of some of the biggest brands in retail and hospitality internationally. “The business is performing brilliantly, securing some very high-profile new clients and winning global accolades for the customer service that lies at the heart of what we do. The new structure will help us to capitalise on that growth and move on to the next level.” Retail Assist employs more than 90 people at its headquarters on Friar Lane, Nottingham, while a further 80 people are based at two sites in Northampton – an application centre on the Moulton Park Industrial Estate and a Data Centre nearby on Westleigh Office Park. The business develops and provides global software solutions and round-the-clock IT support services which enable clients like Harvey Nichols, Karen Millen and ASOS  to meet customer demand in an era known as omnichannel – where sales can be in-store, online or click-and-collect. The IT support which it provides is acknowledged to be the best in the industry, its Help Desk having won the Best Managed Service Desk Award at this year‘s Service Desk Institute’s annual awards – a benchmark of global performance. Julian Woodall’s arrival at Retail Assist marks the start of a push to help its team enhance skills and assume responsibilities which will enable the business to explore new opportunities. Julian, whose experience includes senior roles with major retail and financial services organisations, said: “Retail Assist is in a strong position to progress because it is beginning this journey with the right culture – the people who work here, the service they deliver and the environment they operate in are already very good, as the awards testify. “But as a business, we’re ready to move on to the…
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  • 29 Sep

We Welcome Matthew Proudlove as our new Chief Finance Officer

This month we welcome Matthew Proudlove to the Board as our new Chief Finance Officer (CFO). After graduating from Warwick University, with a degree in German and Business, Matthew has gone on to gain valuable business and finance experience in Europe and the UK. Matthew trained and qualified as a Chartered Accountant, spending time in Germany, Austria, and the UK. He then spent 13 years in corporate finance where he was involved in corporate acquisitions, company sales and management buy outs. Matthew joins us from The Real Yorkshire Pudding Company where he was CFO since 2012. Matthew Proudlove, comments: “I see massive growth potential for Retail Assist and can’t wait to get started and make steps towards supporting the expansion of the company. I have always had an interest in retail and enjoy the fast-paced nature of the sector; I look forward to the challenges ahead.” Our Retail Assist Board first met Matthew in 2010 when he worked in corporate finance. Alan Morris, Executive Chairman, comments: “We are delighted that Matthew has joined the team as we continue to build on our growth strategy. Through our previous business relationships with him we knew he was a strong fit for Retail Assist, and look forward to working with him.” Morris adds: “It is with Matthew’s skills and experience within the finance sector, coupled with his enthusiasm that he will help the board to move forward and achieve our business vision.” Matthew’s previous experience in corporate finance, where he worked in both practice and industry means that he has a wealth of knowledge and experience in growing companies. With a keen interest in the IT sector Matthew will be a great attribute not only to our finance department but to the business as a whole. Tim Moxon, our current Chief Finance Officer will leave Retail Assist on Friday 3rd October once he has affected a handover to Matthew. Tim comments: “I will be leaving Retail Assist in order to pursue potential opportunities to work with small sized businesses on a reduced working hour’s basis.” Morris concludes: “Tim has made a considerable contribution to the success of the business over the past 10 years and he leaves with our sincere thanks and best wishes for the future.”…
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  • 7 Apr

Shortlisted for ‘Project of the Year’ with Nutmeg at Morrisons

Entering and winning awards is really important to us.  It demonstrates the vast achievements of the teams involved in our projects, and showcases the work that we have carried out with our customers.  It demonstrates our passion for what we do, and recognises that we are delivering operational improvements, providing competitive advantage and cost efficiencies for our customers.  This is why we are delighted to announce that we have been shortlisted  for ‘Project of the Year’ at the Retail Week Technology Awards for our work with Morrisons clothing range Nutmeg. This project enabled Morrisons to bring it’s own branded clothing line to market, from concept to launch with entire systems and infrastructure live in just 6 months.  Morrisons had a strategic view to develop a home-grown clothing line in 2013, so launched ‘Nutmeg’ as a clothing brand for the family, with initial launch of the childrenswear range. We were chosen with our supply chain solution ‘Merret’ as the ideal partner based on our unique experience in this area. Nutmeg chose the Merret application for scalability and omnichannel retailing functionality, in addition to managed IT services from us to host the IT infrastructure for the operation to support the entire user base. Merret is our omnichannel supply chain solution that covers all aspects of stock control, retail supply and business information through it’s single stock pool management. It offers retailers scalability enabling the technology to grow with the needs and size of the retail operation. The first phase of the project was to launch the childrenswear range in Morrisons stores on 21st March 2013, which was to quickly rise to several hundred stores within a year.  The achievements within this project have exceeded all original expectations. We find out whether we have been successful on June 11th, 2014, at the Hilton Hotel, Park Lane, London.  Fingers crossed everyone! If you want to know more about this project, please get in touch on 0115 853 3910, or enquiries@retail-assist.co.uk.…
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  • 23 Dec

2013 Highlights

It has been a very busy year for Retail Assist in 2013.Not only is it our 15th Year of trading but we’ve had some exciting new product developments and clients on board, so we thought we would provide a recap of our activity throughout 2013. In January we attended the NRF Expo in New York, where we came across omnichannel solutions to facilitate both the personalisation of message and the development of more joined up communications to customers. The Expo gave us a great insight into current solutions available and the future technologies that are available to retailers. In February we gained some new clients, and extended service provision with others.Supermarket retailer Morrisons selected our supply chain solution Merret to support the launch of their new children’s wear brand ‘Nutmeg’. The JacquesVert Group who had recently merged with the ‘Irisa’ group also decided to extend our Merret supply chain solution, already implemented at Jacques Vert, across the entire group of brands.This saw Merret fuelling the supply chain of the entire group, expanding from 4 brands to 9. March saw omnichannel and international growth amongst Coast, Oasis, Warehouse and Karen Millen brands.With the support of our supply chain solution, Merret, we were able to underpin their future strategies with Merret’s inherent omnichannel functionality, scalability and international trading foundations. April was the month of award nominations, being shortlisted in both the ‘Sales and Marketing’ and ‘Company of the Year’ categories at the Nottingham Post Business Awards. We were also shortlisted with Jacques Vert Group Plc in the ‘Supply Chain Excellence’ category at the Retail Week Technology Awards. The results of the Nottingham Post Business Awards were revealed in May, and saw us win Nottinghamshire’s ‘Company of the Year’.We were delighted, as is evident in the video.Check out the winning moment here. Keeping up our award success, in June we were delighted to win the‘Supply Chain Excellence’ category at the Retail Week Technology Awards. In July we held our first ‘Help Desk Advisory Board’.This enabled us to find ways of continually improving our service provision, by developing a closer relationship with end users of our service, allowing us to further understand their requirements. The first ‘Help Desk Advisory Board’ meeting went so well we followed up with a second in August with key topics such as; ring time vs. resolution time, methods of logging calls, help sheet usage and the effectiveness of call categorisation being discussed. With 17th September marking 100 days until Christmas we developed new exclusive research conducted by OnePoll, revealing shopping strategies that consumers planned to use to deal with Christmas shopping.The research concluded that people weren’t shopping online simply to save time and money but to avoid hectic shopping conditions. September also saw us awarded ‘Supplier of the Year’ at the Bidvest Logistics and 3663 internal awards. This was a fantastic achievement for us, and one we were very proud of as we were put forward by Bidvest Logistics themselves, and subsequently won from the entire supplier base of…
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  • 17 Jun

Happy Birthday To Us!

Yesterday we became 14, and will be celebrating entering our 15th year of trading as ‘Retail Assist’ over the next few months. We are proud and honoured to begin this pivotal year as ‘Company of the Year,’ having recently been awarded with the title at the Nottingham Post Business Awards. Retail Assist was founded in 1999 to “bridge the gap between the capabilities of retailers’ in-house IT departments and the services traditionally offered by IT systems providers, based on a unique combination of technical ability and retail understanding, founded from front-line retail experience.” Having begun as a small operation the business has grown substantially, now employing 180 people compared to 15 in our first year. Having won numerous awards over the years, we currently hold the title ‘Company of the Year,’ and have previously been awarded honours such as ‘Project Implementation of the Year’ at the Retail Week Technology Awards, and ‘Best Use of E-Commerce in a Retail Environment’ at the European Retail Solutions Awards. (For a comprehensive list of award wins, please click here) We are also very proud to mention the very successful retailers we support both in the UK and internationally, including Harvey Nichols, Selfridges, ASOS, Morrisons, Whistles, Coast, Warehouse, Karen Millen, Oasis, Mint Velvet and Hobbycraft amongst many more leading brands. We are proud to say Retail Assist has gone from strength to strength, with team members both old and new working together to make the business a success. We are pleased to say that our team work as friends as well as colleagues, and many have been around for the full 14 years. We wanted to take the opportunity to mark this occasion by saying thank you to everyone that has ever contributed to the Retail Assist journey – from staff members, to partners and to clients, we couldn’t have done this without the people that made it possible. Here’s to many more years!…
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  • 17 Dec

Internationalisation Of The Retail Assist Help Desk

With more brands expanding their business on an international level, it is important to ensure a good range of language capabilities when offering helpdesk services. This is why we at Retail Assist have started to think internationally by expanding our team with native and learned speakers of a range of languages – a service that is available in an addition to our current international capabilities. We took the time to discuss this update to our service with Helpdesk Manager, Anthony Collings, to gain insight into how this will impact upon the future of the help desk, and how it will benefit future and existing clients. Charlotte: First of all, let’s talk a bit about you. How long have you worked on the Retail Assist help desk? And can you tell us a bit about your role? Anthony: I have worked on the helpdesk for over 6 years now, I did Helpdesk Admin for 6 months, and worked as Helpdesk Analyst for 3 years, Team Leader for a year, Supervisor for a year, and am currently Manager. Within my current role I oversee and manage the helpdesk (this is made up of Team Leaders, Analysts, Handlers, Admin and Desktop Support.) We provide 24/7 support 365 days a year and we provide the link between the helpdesk and the other team members of Retail Assist whilst also acting as an escalation point for our clients. We also oversee the work to ensure we deliver within budget and in accordance to SLA’s, whilst suggesting and making changes to ensure we are continually improving upon all aspects of the helpdesk. Charlotte: What had to be done to internationalise the helpdesk, how much work went into it and what steps had to be taken? Anthony: Over the past 12 months we have seen many of our clients expand their operations overseas. With this in mind we wanted to ensure we had the language skills in place long before we were asked to provide these services to our clients, so we would be ready when they wanted them. We looked into the languages required based on the location of stores and by speaking to clients to identify any markets they had future plans of expanding into. Charlotte: Which languages are we currently able to deliver? Anthony: We currently provide language skills in Italian, Polish, French, Spanish, Portuguese, Mandarin and German. Charlotte: What are your thoughts on this change, and how has the change impacted the way you and your team work? Anthony: This change is really positive and my thoughts are that it brings a new challenge and a new approach to the services we can offer, it provides another service we can deliver and keeps us one step ahead of our competition. It will also benefit all departments within Retail Assist, as these skills mean we have the ability to talk directly to clients and third parties abroad. We can also translate conference calls and email communication.  This gets our analysts involved in other aspects…
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  • 19 Nov

Retail Assist Achieves ISO 20000

This week’s blog comes to you with good news from Retail Assist – we have successfully passed our BSI ISO audit, in addition to achieving the standard for the new release of ISO20000 across the business as a whole. The ISO20000 is the international IT Service Management standard that enables organisations to ensure that their services are delivered to a high standard. While many are accredited for certain areas within their business, Retail Assist has been certified across the entirety of our organisation, so we are obviously very proud! Achieving ISO20000 status is a great result for us, and we are really pleased to have achieved this status for the last 5 years. Next year will be our second full re-certification, with each accreditation lasting for 3 years, with 2 audits a year. This accomplishment demonstrates our ability to provide a consistent approach as a business, a culture of continuous improvement and an approach which focuses on the detection of problems before they occur throughout all of the services we provide.…
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