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IT services and solutions for retail and hospitality

INDUSTRY INSIGHTS

  • 28 Nov

Are you coping with peak demand?

Whether your Black Friday sales period took place over one weekend, one week, or in some cases, 10 days, did your stores cope well with Black Friday demand this year? And are you prepared for the festive sales to come? On Black Friday, some of our customers were transacting around £1million per hour on average – sales figures that can’t be put at risk. This blog will look at how Retail Assist can help to improve your performance at peak times, to ensure a profitable Christmas trading season. Retailers know when to expect a sales surge, and so at these times, your IT infrastructure must operate consistently at 100%. However, downtime can affect anyone, even the most organised. Our IT services and solutions are developed with this in mind, for example the high availability of our omnichannel supply chain solution, Merret, and our 24×7 international Help Desk support, to keep your store transactions running smoothly. Venturing into the peak retail season, putting the correct processes in place is critical. Our Peak Trading Checklist is a great place to start. We developed this guide with input from leading retailers, in order for you to check off areas that encompass all aspects of IT store support. Retail IT Support: our Help Desk. It’s all about being proactive. Our Help Desk analysts work to reduce the number of incidents our customers experience, by identifying patterns and data trends, to prevent future issues from recurring. This might also involve identifying where costs are being incurred unnecessarily, and reducing the number of chargeable hardware call outs for example. Consumers now have the ability to transact anywhere, at any time – Black Friday 2016 stats show a peak of customers shopping from 1am! Therefore, retailers’ IT support must reflect 24 x 7 expectations. Outsourced service providers, like ourselves, can bridge the gap between in-house capabilities. We play a vital “weekend” or “out of hours” role for some many of our customers, working as a crucial extended part of their own teams. Improved systems availability, enhanced customer service, reduced overall service cost and, most importantly, increased profits, are all benefits to be expected of a well-resourced IT support service. If you’d like to implement our award-winning services, our retail project management team can manage the service transition end-to-end within months. Get in touch here for more information or to register your interest for our IT services and solutions.…
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  • 14 Nov

Black Friday 2016 begins

With just 10 days to go until Black Friday traditionally launches on the last Friday in November, shoppers are already taking advantage of early deals. Where are the best Black Friday deals 2016? Amazon UK launched ‘The Black Friday Sale’ today, and remains the first etailer to do so. Extensive discounts are available across all departments, with “double the number of deals” compared to last year. The online retailer said it was extending its promotions, which ran for a week last year, in response to customer feedback. Other retailers will be soon to follow Amazon’s early start: Argos will be begin cutting prices on Friday 18th whilst Tesco starts its Black Friday deals on Monday 21st. Debenhams will also begin the sale early, launching on Monday 21st. But with all the media hype, retailer backlash on margin damage, and so called “consumer fatigue” towards the event, why are retailers still making so much of Black Friday? Sales volumes over Black Friday and Cyber Monday make up a large amount of Christmas purchases. In 2015, Amazon (UK) sold over 7.4 million items over its week-long event in the UK: selling on average 86 items per second at peak time. Black Friday 2015 was also the largest and most successful shopping day for Argos in its trading history. Retail Week reported that both Amazon and Argos are increasing their workforces, with Argos recruiting 10,000 seasonal workers and Amazon hiring 20,000. In essence, retailers are still competing on price. If you can find your favourite fragrance for a third of the price at another retailer, what’s to stop you ditching your go-to department store in the face of a cheaper item? Consumers now have the knowledge, and paired with unlimited choice, this definitely gives them the power. Look out for our full Black Friday analysis after the event. Don’t slip up on customer experience during peak trading season. Ensure your stores are well prepared with our free checklist: download it here.  …
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Black Friday Christmas
  • 7 Nov

Black Friday demand: hype or reality?

The media does much to hype up Black Friday year on year, inflating the event as the end of November approaches. From spending forecasts of £5BN, to hints about the best deals, consumers can’t help but be swept up in the Black Friday build-up. But how far are the forecasts correct? Are UK consumers still buying into the Black Friday concept, or are they tired of the retail frenzy? Our Black Friday survey reveals more. Something that could damage this year’s Black Friday experience is the apparent mismatch between retailers’ and consumers’ perceptions of expected spending. Research for Retail Week conducted by Retail Economics shows that 40% of retailers are anticipating higher demand, but only a small 14% of consumers intend to spend more during Black Friday 2016. In fact, as the infographic shows above, nearly ¾ shoppers actually plan to spend LESS this year. Of the survey conducted by Retail Assist, just over half of our respondents (59%) are planning to shop at all. So, can retailers really sit back and relax if consumers are planning to spend less? In short, the answer is no. Black Friday is still a largely unpredictable event. Who’s to say that of those consumers “planning not to buy”, they might browse online or in-store over the weekend, and be tempted to make an unexpected purchase due to the lure of “unmissable” discounts. In addition, the vast amount of consumers logging on to browse deals means your ecommerce platform must be functioning at 100% performance to provide the best customer experience, even if those prospecting shoppers don’t convert. Black Friday will still be used as a measure against which retailers’ peak trading performance is tested, and judged by consumers and the wider retail industry. Make sure you’ve planned for Peak Trading. Working with leading retailers, we have developed a simple in-store checklist to make sure staff and systems are best prepared for increased demand. You can download Retail Assist’s free peak trading guide here.    …
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  • 31 Oct

Black Friday Survey 2016

Black Friday 2016 is hot on the agenda for retailers, taking place at the end of the November – from Friday 25th November and across the long weekend. Current predictions have indicated that online channels (especially mobile) are ones to watch this Black Friday: £5billion is expected to be splashed out over “Black Fiveday”, and that just accounts for online spend. In order to analyse the consumer opinion of Black Friday trading, this year 300 respondents took our Black Friday survey. See our full findings in the below Black Friday infographic. You can view our Black Friday 2015 survey results here. With just over half of respondents planning to buy something on Black Friday (59%), this is the same percentage as in 2015. As mentioned before, it may seem low, but this figure doesn’t take into account the amount of impulse buyers that could take unexpected advantage of “don’t miss deals” over the Fiveday sale periods. Although last year predictions totalled £1billion, in reality UK shoppers spent £3.3bn over the weekend online and in-store. This is the “unpredictable” demand, in the face of which retailers have geared up to prime and protect their ecommerce platforms, logistics and supply chain operations for maximum performance. Will 2016 sales top £5bn predictions? Time will tell.  54% of respondents are looking to take advantage of the extended Black “Fiveday” discount period, making multiple purchases across the weekend. Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales may also affected due to the event falling before the traditional UK payday. A massive 77% of respondents are set to be online Black Friday shoppers, which is an increase on 70% in 2015. The move to online has been reported on extensively in recent years, as the scrumlike fights in-store for discount TVs in 2014 have given over to purchases behind screens and virtual queueing. This is perhaps due to consumer frustrations and fears about a hectic in-store Black Friday experience. Did you know that 40% of consumers won’t queue for longer than 2 minutes, and 51% refuse to even enter a store if they see a queue? Increased demand means a busy store is inevitable, but making customer service more efficient should be a number one priority for retailers during peak trading season. Till down-time and queueing are preventable issues, if you have the correct support in place. Our IT Help Desk analysts are experienced in front line retail service, and understand the real impact of systems downtime at peak periods. Our 24×7 IT and technical support facilitates greater systems uptime at point of service, critical for any brand, any time of year. You can download our How To Guide: Preparing Stores for Peak Trading, here. Make sure to check out our post Black Friday analysis blog, for a full analysis and breakdown of this year’s event. If you’d like to use our survey results, please get in touch at marketing@retail-assist.co.uk.…
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Missguided Halloween Outfits
  • 24 Oct

Trick or treat yourself: Halloween spending

Money spent on Halloween celebrations is expected to top £300million for the first time in the UK – thanks to millennials. Market analysts Mintel found that 40 per cent of Brits expected to spend money on the spooky festival, showing that seasonality is evidently still a big win for retail brands. The figure rose to 50 per cent in the 16-35 age bracket. Twentysomethings are firmly behind the predicted growth in costume and party sales, with spending expected to be five per cent higher than in 2015. Let’s hope they don’t turn out to be phantom shoppers… October sales have suffered in recent years, due to consumers saving up and holding out for promised deals and discounts on Black Friday. The response from fashion retail has been to ramp up October spending appeal with a range of Halloween costumes, mainstream fashion pieces, and heavily marketed Halloween campaigns. With a shorter seasonal timeframe in which to sell, Halloween products are more likely to be sold at full price. Have a quick scan of the ecommerce offer of a range of retailers, and one thing is clear: Halloween is dominating fashion retail in a big way. Missguided’s extensive range, ASOS’ styling tips and H&M’s House of Halloween are all examples of optimised content paired with what consumers want, all in one convenient place to search. Do you think fashion retail has improved its Halloween offer in 2016? Last year, our research revealed that supermarkets took an overwhelming majority when it came to Halloween purchasing habits: 67% voted for supermarkets as their preferred place to shop Halloween items, over the 33% of people choosing fashion retailers. And in terms of the top Halloween activities: 53% said they’d be sitting down to a scary film, whilst 28% were going to costume parties, and 19% having a night out. Check out our 2015 Halloween spending survey.…
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  • 17 Oct

Black Fiveday

The countdown has begun, as the annual discount extravaganza looms. Black Friday, or more appropriately “Black Fiveday” as it has been dubbed this year, is due to kick off in just 5 weeks’ time. Here’s all you need to know ahead of the event. When is Black Friday 2016? This year the Black Friday deals are due to land on 25th November 2016, but the one-day peak is expected to end in favour of an extended Black Fiveday – Thursday 24th November through to Cyber Monday on 28th November. Recent research from Salmon has estimated that a record £5 billion will be spent across the Black Friday and Cyber Monday weekend: and that’s just online. What were Black Friday sales in 2015? In the UK Black Friday is largely an online event, with UK online sales up by 36% year on year to £1.1 billion on Black Friday 2015. This was the UK’s first ever recorded £1billion+ online shopping day. How should retailers prepare for Black Friday 2016? The main preparation will have already been done: ensuring mobile optimisation for greater traffic and usability, website high capacity testing, and deciding the all-important promotions. Retailers must prepare contingency plans to respond to issues during Black Fiveday, to prevent a negative customer experience impacting upon brand loyalty. Retail Assist’s 24 x 7 IT Help Desk is a critical service for our fashion retail clients, as we proactively monitor and detect issues before outages arise, and fix problems efficiently in real-time. Check out our free downloadable guide for Black Friday peak trading here. Omnichannel must still be retailers’ top priority, as consumers will demand a Black Friday brand experience that is consistent across all channels, with a full range of order and delivery options, to ensure they can really buy anywhere, at any time. Preparing for an increased amount of returns must also be a top consideration: as consumers expect to buy more across the Black Friday weekend, they will inevitably return more. This calls for a fully integrated omnichannel supply chain solution, with 100% flexibility and availability to fulfil, with orders returned across any channel (i.e. buy online and return in store, the bugbear of many a consumer). We’re currently researching Black Friday 2016 trends, so look our for our survey results and predictions soon.…
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Mother's Day Gift Guide
  • 2 Mar

Mother’s Day Gift Ideas

Have you bought your Mum a gift yet? If the answer is no, don’t panic. We visited some of our customers on the High Street to create a  Mother’s Day video gift guide for you. We’ve got all types of Mums covered in our gift guide: the fashionistas, the handbag lovers, the list makers and the ones who insist a card is just enough. Take a look at our gift guide here and if you see something you like, we have listed all the links to each product underneath the video. Mint Velvet Ombre Wrap Blouse, Mint Velvet Abstract Print Scarf, Karen Millen Glitter Box Clutch, Karen Millen Printed Clutch, Paperchase’s Entire Mother’s Day Collection. Our customers always provide great gifts for Mother’s Day. Did you know that if you make a purchase at Cath Kidston before Mother’s Day, you’ll get a lovely free card? Now that’s a job made quick and easy! Cath Kidston are also hosting a series of ‘Mother’s Day Makes’. Join them in-store to create some lovely Mother’s Day gifts. You can also use their blog guides to create home-made gifts if you’re a bit strapped for cash. What gifts do you think your Mum will like best from our gift guide? How are you celebrating Mother’s Day this Sunday? Post your comments in the box below, we’d love to hear from you!…
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discount december
  • 7 Dec

A discounted December?

The verdict’s out on Black Friday, as this year’s sales figures are in. But did the event meet our predictions and expectations? It looks like our Black Friday research (featured here on Notts TV at 1:37) was correct. Online vs High St Online spend was up 36% year on year, smashing previous records by topping £1.1 billion sales on Black Friday. Online sales across the four day weekend, including Cyber Monday, amounted to a whopping £3.3 billion. It was a different story on the high street, however, as footfall fell 4.5%, a slump blamed not only on the “damp squib” that was Black Friday, but also due to the strong online offer provided by many retailers. In this sense, Black Friday definitely failed to provide high street fashion stores with the required boost in November, with sales down 4.9% year on year, following on from a similar October slump. So, why did consumers choose to purchase online, opting for shopping via ecommerce rather than bricks and mortar? Perhaps the mayhem that gripped the nation’s headlines last year acted as a deterrent to those hoping to shop in-store. Something that definitely stood out from last year is the drawn out nature of the discount period. It was a well organised, pre-Christmas shopping event rather than one manic day of unprecedented demand and unfulfilled expectations. Discount mentality Is there much that retailers can do in the battle to protect margins, in the face of the current consumer demand for discounting? 60% of shoppers time their purchases around sales (Conlumino 2014), a mentality that is harming retailers’ sell through of full price stock. If December is anything to go by so far, we’re still seeing extended discounts under different names: Cyber Monday Hangover, Manic Monday, Festive Frenzy… It’s interesting that the connotations of discounting still concentrate on the “flash” sale, despite deals being stretched out to prevent demand concentrating on days like Black Friday. Something retailers need to consider is the amount of returns they’re getting, and the need to process these with great efficiency. What’s the use of having an item “out of stock” on your website, or in-store for that matter, when said item is being returned, and could be being sold at full price? This is a cyclical process that needs to tighten up. Now more than ever, it’s critical for retailers to have 100% visibility of all stock, across all channels. We can help – just visit our dedicated Merret page to learn more about omnichannel supply chain efficiency, or get in touch with us here.    …
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  • 2 Dec

Christmas Gift Guide for Him 2015

What to buy the man in your life for Christmas 2015… Our Marketing team has been out on the High St compiling the perfect Christmas Gift Guide for Him, featuring our customers. You can also watch our Christmas Gift Guide for Her here. 1) White Stuff Pyjamas, £25 T-shirt, £35 Bottoms 2) White Stuff Washbag, £15 3) Reiss Coat, £295 4) Reiss Cashmink Scarf, £45 5) Paperchase Recipe Book, £15 6) Paperchase Tablet Case, £12 7) Cath Kidston Baby All-in-One, £32…
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christmas gift guide for him
  • 1 Dec

Christmas Gift Guide For Her 2015

Now that December’s here, it’s a great time to make your Christmas gift purchases! Wondering what to buy your Mum for Christmas 2015? Or maybe the best Christmas gifts for your girlfriend? Our latest vlog features Top 5 Christmas Gifts for Her (& more!), complied on the High Street and featuring our customers. Make sure to look out for our Christmas Gift Guide for Him tomorrow! 1) Oasis Tabby Tasseled Bag, £34 2) Oasis Grey Bow Slipper, £14 3) White Stuff Annabelle Bobble Hat, £17 4) White Stuff Cut Work Floral Apron, £16 5) Cath Kidston Champagne Glasses, £15 6) Cath Kidston Baby Knitted All In One, £32 7) Paperchase Apples & Pears Medium Scrapbook, £10 8) Paperchase A6 Week To View Diary, £6 Don’t forget to check last posting dates for Christmas to ensure your gift arrives on time for the big day.…
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