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IT services and solutions for retail and hospitality

News

Aurora Fashions IT Outsourcing
  • 1 Dec

Mosaic opts for managed polling

Mosaic Fashions, parent company of the seven successful design-led fashion brands Oasis, Principles, Warehouse, Karen Millen, Coast, Whistles and the footwear business, The Shoe Studio, has contracted with IT partner Retail Assist for a managed polling service in some of its brands. For any retailer, the efficient and timely polling of data between own-brand stores is a critical element that affects key functions such as replenishment. However, as Mosaic experienced, multi-channel distribution makes additional demands in this area. As the retailer has expanded its network of concessions to encompass more and more partners, the requirement for data exchange has increased and become more complex. Until now, Mosaic has used standard file transfer protocol (FTP) to send PLU data down to its partners and receive sales data back from them. Whilst aiming for file standardisation from all concessions, Mosaic found itself having to manipulate diverse formats before data could be processed into its Mercatus merchandising system. Now, rather than continue to manage this process on an agreement-by-agreement basis, the retailer has retained Retail Assist to provide a proven, consistent and scaleable solution across the board. Data polling is an area of expertise for Retail Assist and it was able to offer Mosaic a managed service that was both cost-effective and relevant to the retailer’s business model. “To support our ambitions for expansion, it was critical for us to establish a resilient polling model which can be extended to any concession or Mosaic brand store. Retail Assist has a proven track record in managing polling services to support both own-fascia and concession operations, which gives us a real sense of confidence,” says Mike Padfield, I.T. Development Manager at Mosaic Fashions. As a result of the agreement with Retail Assist, Mosaic will enjoy a fully managed service, governed by a service level agreement (SLA) that aims to achieve a consistently high rate of polling success. It will also include the daily collection of consolidated sales data from each of the concessionaires and its transmission to Mosaic together with an analysis of any polling failures or discrepancies. The service rollout is planned in three stages. The first stage is completed, with data now being exchanged with Irish department store chain, Brown Thomas, which is carrying Oasis’ new Odille lingerie range. The next phase was to extend the service to support Mosaic’s recent agreement with Dutch department store chain, Vroom and Dreesmann. Work has now been completed to poll product and sales files for the Oasis range to and from four Vroom and Dreesmann sites. With all of its brands already sold across House of Fraser stores, Mosaic has moved operations onto a true concession footing, with host store tills used to transact business and to provide a daily sales update. Retail Assist has now completed the work to poll files between Mosaic and House of Fraser. “The fact that we already manage a polling service with House of Fraser for another retailer and are familiar with its file formats and processing protocols means we…
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Store Systems
  • 30 Nov

Making easy work of store system selection

The right Store System can positively impact a retailer’s growth, competitiveness and financial health. Whilst operating in the front-office of the shop floor, today’s Store Systems co-exist with, populate and often drive back-office processes. They are a pivotal part of the supply chain and, as the source of sales data, directly affect stock control and replenishment. Whilst retailers are often slow to replace and upgrade Store Systems because they fear the impact of change, they cite them as a key technology purchase. This point is emphasised in the Martec IT in Retail 2006 Survey, which once again identifies Store Systems as the top IT investment priority for a research base of 100 UK retailers. Using both their recent retailer research and in-house experience of selecting and managing Store Systems, retail IT outsourcing specialist Retail Assist has produced an Executive Guide. This details the issues to consider and the approaches which can lead to successful system selection and use.…
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Retail Assist news
  • 29 Nov

Thresher Group renews contract

The UK’s leading independent specialist drinks retailer, Thresher Group, has renewed its Help Desk contract with Retail Assist for the sixth year in succession. Now employing over 12,000 staff in around 2,000 outlets, the Thresher Group is driven by its local service ethos and believes that more than half the UK’s population live within 10 minutes walk from one of its Threshers, The Local, or Wine Rack shops. To further build on this local presence, a year ago it acquired 200 stores from the Unwins chain. The Group is represented in Scotland by the Haddows brand. With such a diverse brand structure and geographical spread, support can pose something of a challenge. To ensure continuity of technical back-up to staff in its outlets, Thresher Group uses Retail Assist for first-line customer support during what are traditionally the busiest trading hours for drinks stores. The Help Desk acts as a single focal point for all in-store IT issues, whether hardware, software or applications related, from 18.00 to 23.15 on Monday to Friday and at all times at the weekend.…
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Retail Assist news
  • 17 Nov

Charity balloon race

Nottingham Castle was the setting this week for the start of a Charity Balloon Race organised by retail IT outsourcing company, Retail Assist. The company manages computer services for retailers including many high-street fashion brands and department stores. At a recent Awards Ceremony organised by the retail industry publication, Retail Systems, Retail Assist decided to take an inventive approach to sponsorship of the balloons that traditionally decorate the event. Guests at the Awards Ceremony were invited to purchase balloons which, bearing their details on return luggage labels, were released from the Castle Green on 22nd November by Nottingham’s medieval answer toPosh and Becks. £ 1,444 was raised from the sale of the balloons and all proceeds were given on the day to Retail Assist’s corporate charity, Rainbows Children’s Hospice in Loughborough. Rainbows is the children’s hospice for the East Midlands and South Yorkshire, and provides respite, palliative and terminal care to families who have a child with a life-limiting illness. Over the next two weeks, anyone finding a balloon is asked to post back its luggage label to Retail Assist, specifying where it landed. The sponsor of the balloon which has travelled the furthest from Nottingham Castle will win two return Eurostar tickets to Paris or Brussels, courtesy of the company.…
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Harvey Nichols
  • 10 Oct

Harvey Nichols out-of-hours support

International luxury lifestyle retailer, Harvey Nichols, has extended its contract with IT partner Retail Assist to include an out-of-hours Service Desk. Observes Martin Schofield, Harvey Nichols’ IT & Logistics Director “Our goal was to upgrade our IT support to provide a guaranteed telephone answering service that reflects our stores’ extended opening hours. In selecting an out-of-hours service from Retail Assist, IT can now better support the business and benefit from using a trusted partner. Britons reputedly have one of the longest working weeks in Europe. The ability to shop early and late on working days (as demonstrated by the growing popularity of Harvey Nichols’ Foodmarkets) adds to the convenience and quality of life. In addition, the retailer’s focus on lifestyle services and products has turned it into a favoured leisure destination for weekend shopping, eating and relaxing. Retail Assist is providing Harvey Nichols with out-of-hours Service Desk support, based in its Bingham, Nottingham Support Centre. Cover is provided during the early mornings and the early to late evening period during 6 days a week, with a full day of support provided on Sunday. Calls are directed to Call Analysts trained to immediately act upon major IT issues. A 2nd-line support service is also provided to address more complex EPoS problems. The support service encompasses both Head Office staff and those working in the retailer’s six stores in the UK and Eire, two stand-alone Restaurants and Warehouse. Support is also provided for some 700 EPoS tills and PCs across these locations. The contract awarded to Retail Assist builds upon an existing relationship with Harvey Nichols. Martin Schofield joined the company in 2003, since when he is credited with having contributed to the retailer’s increased competitive advantage and market agility through the fine-tuning of its technical infrastructure and systems. Amongst his early changes were the acquisition of an IBM iSeries processor and the outsourcing of its hosting, operation and support to Retail Assist two years ago. The iSeries, which drives the retailer’s key functions including stock management and supply chain, is housed at Retail Assist’s Northampton Data centre. Concludes Retail Assist’s Services Manager, Dave Roberts, who is responsible for the out-of-hours service “We are particularly pleased to see our relationship with Harvey Nichols develop further. Their request for us to provide an out-of-hours Service Desk is testimony to the confidence that the company has in our people and our facilities.” Harvey Nichols’ estate covers Dublin, Manchester, Edinburgh, Birmingham and Leeds in addition to its flagship Knightsbridge, London store. Its international expansion has seen its stores in Riyadh, Dubai and Hong Kong become landmarks in cities where luxury is a byword. September 2006 marked the opening of its latest store, occupying 8,000 sqm in Istanbul’s Kanyon Levant state-of-the-art shopping mall.…
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Retail Assist news
  • 20 Aug

IT service manager award 2006

Dave Roberts, Services Manager at Retail Assist has reached the final stage in the IT Service Manager of the Year award category. Dave is the only representative from the retail industry among this year’s award finalists, who also include employees of Rail Settlement Plan, Stockport Metropolitan Borough Council and Lloyds TSB. The BCS awards have very quickly established themselves as the leading hallmark of success amongst practitioners in the IT industry today. As standards of sophistication, business acumen and skill in the IT world are continually developing, the role of IT and its effective management is critical across the whole spectrum of business. The British Computer Society has created the IT Professional Awards, designed to embrace IT and business achievement. The IT Service Manager of the Year award is an individual excellence award sponsored by the IT Service Management Forum (itSMF) and recognises those whose outstanding IT achievement helps the nation’s IT industry maintain its position as a leading global player. Dave Roberts, Service Manager of Retail Assist’s Service Desk and Store Systems team, has been selected to go through to the final stages of the judging process for demonstrating consistently high levels of service delivery through a well-motivated and highly competent team. Dave is now required to make a presentation to a panel of judges in September 2006. Alan Morris, Managing Director of Retail Assist commented “We are very proud that a key employee for Retail Assist has been selected by the most prestigious IS body in the UK. During Dave’s time here he has made a significant contribution, improving service delivery against SLAs and building two strong customer focused Retail Support Teams.” David Clarke, BCS CEO, added “The diversity of entries this year has been impressive with projects from IT suppliers as well as from the end user community. We have been very impressed by the high quality of all the projects and the judges certainly have their work cut out to find the overall winners from the medallists who have reached this stage.”…
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Retail Assist news
  • 10 Mar

Retail Assist supports transfer to Ikano

Rubicon Retail has revealed how its move to leading-edge store cards for its Warehouse and Principles brands has enhanced its customer experience The systems projects to transfer to new, more functional cards which have taken place over recent months have been managed by Rubicon’s IT outsourcing partner Retail Assist. The project was a collaborative one, requiring Retail Assist to work with Rubicon and two of its partners: GCS, provider of the retailer’s Merret merchandising system, and IKANO, its new store card partner. IKANO are now managing all elements of customer accounts, loyalty awards, tender types and sales transaction processing for the new cards. The launch of the Warehouse store card has replaced and extended the services previously provided by the Creation Store Card. Its introduction has also paved the way for a new scheme, awarding points for spend which are then converted to loyalty vouchers. New development was required to support these loyalty vouchers as a payment method. Principles store card processes were previously managed by GE Capital, and these customer accounts have now been migrated to IKANO. A further card also supplied by IKANO provides credit facilities, enabling it to be more widely accepted through Principles concessions that do not operate Rubicon till systems. Comments Ishan Patel, I.S. Director at Rubicon Retail “The project required great flexibility from Retail Assist in rising to the challenge of managing scope changes whilst keeping to fixed project timelines for systems migration and new card launches. Their contribution to the success of the project was invaluable.” As part of the new store cards’ operations, transaction-level information is provided to IKANO, enabling them to undertake marketing analysis on individual sales and the shopping habits of both Warehouse and Principles card holders. Retail Assist was responsible for delivering a number of technical elements, including: Modifying Warehouse and Principles store systems to replace the Creation and GE Capital cards and accommodate the new IKANO-based cards Updating central and store-based online authorisation services to handle the new cards Introducing support for new tender types into the Rubicon systems Creating an electronic funds transfer (EFT) infrastructure for the Merret merchandise management system to perform data integrity checks, collate and distribute data files Obtaining OLA and EFT certification for card purchases Building a Merret-based SKU-level extract module to provide voucher transaction details Providing a mechanism for passing daily sales information to IKANO in respect of both cards. This enables the tracking and auditing of both card and loyalty voucher transactions Delivering generic file updates to IKANO, including product file updates and stock movement location file refreshes. Adds Iain Hamlett, IKANO project manager “The involvement of Retail Assist was crucial to the overall success of this project, managing a flexible scope through to a timely and quality delivery.” Concludes Gary Broughton, Project Director at Retail Assist “It’s been a pleasure collaborating on this project and implementing the new functionality from IKANO. Looking forward, we will undoubtedly find ourselves putting this experience to good use for other clients wishing to transfer…
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Alan Morris
  • 10 Feb

Sponsors of supply chain excellence

Retail Information Technology outsourcing specialist, Retail Assist, have announced their sponsorship of one of the industry’s most coveted achievement awards, the Supply Chain Excellence category at the 2006 European Retail Solutions Awards. The award invites retail businesses or retailer/vendor partnerships from across Europe to demonstrate their achievement of Supply Chain Excellence through a new initiative that is delivering results. Retailers can put distance between themselves and their peers in an increasingly competitive market by good supply chain management. This year’s winner will show how they have achieved business improvements and tangible efficiencies in both addressing the demands of global buying and the need of the business to closely manage its stock. “Today’s supply chains are complex networks of interdependent elements. Everything must work in concert, requiring not only harmonisation of technology and process but a common culture supported by the best communications structure,” comments Retail Assist’s Managing Director, Alan Morris. Retail Assist selected to sponsor the Supply Chain Excellence Award as this is an area of particular expertise. Since its formation, the company’s skills have helped retailers to create joined up- supply chain strategies and to optimise communication, data and process: all of which can measurably improve the flow of both data and merchandise. Continues Alan Morris: “Whilst sound supply chain management can deliver tangible business gains, it also ranks amongst a retailer’s greatest challenges. We help our clients to optimise components and integrate processes and systems. Now, with the availability of affordable bandwidth connectivity, we are also able to help retailers achieve maximum information clarity across their supply chain.”…
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Retail Assist news
  • 30 Jan

Odin Retail selects Retail Assist

Retail Information Technology outsourcing specialist, Retail Assist, has announced a new addition to their retailer client list. They have revealed that they provided the technology solution to support the recent launch of a new overseas entrant to the UK and Eire childrenswear markets. As comments Retail Assist’s Managing Director, Alan Morris, “Where international retailers are considering entering or expanding in the UK market, Retail Assist will help them get started and support them going forward.” The British company has been appointed as technology partner by Odin Retail, the UK and Eire franchise arm of favourite Swedish childrenswear retailer PO.P. With its 55 stores and iconic status, PO.P’s distinctive clothing for babies and children dominates its home market and enjoys great brand loyalty. PO.P is owned by RNB Retail and Brands (RnB), Sweden’s 10th largest retailer. Its entry into the UK market follows earlier success in Norway, Iceland, Estonia and Latvia. Odin Retail has chosen concessions within House of Fraser stores as the route to market for its PO.P clothing. Retail Assist have been retained to set up and support the IT infrastructure to enable the franchise to operate in the UK. Adds Odin Retail’s Managing Director, Mats Nilsson, “Retail Assist are ideally placed to support retailers looking for new channels to market. I felt that their combination of retail experience and retail technology knowledge made them my obvious first choice. I can now focus on developing my business, confident that I have a trusted partner who is focusing on my technical solution.” Retail Assist has designed and built a number of data interfaces between the Swedish parent, Odin Retail, and House of Fraser. These are based upon Retail Assist’s proven Linux polling solution which allows data to be converted and easily pulled into another retailer’s system. In the case of Odin, this mechanism will enable product and price files to be sent to House of Fraser and sales data to be sent back to Odin and to the parent company. Retail Assist will continue to work with Odin as they roll out their planned 25 franchises. Later this year, as part of the retailer’s plans to expand through an own-brand chain, Retail Assist will also provide systems support for the opening of PO.P’s first solus store, in West London. Moving forward, the supplier has been awarded a 2-year support contract to provide polling and database support. The new interfaces cover a number of processes and constitute the staging post between RnB and House of Fraser systems. Data received from RnB is firstly converted into a product database by Retail Assist, ensuring that it complies with House of Fraser’s defined standards for format and content when loaded onto their systems. As all garments are shipped and replenished directly from Sweden to the concessions, accompanying price data requires conversion from Krona into Pounds Sterling and Euros for ticketing and pricing information on House of Fraser’s EPoS systems. The new systems enable merchandising data to be captured. This process records the input of…
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