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IT services and solutions for retail and hospitality

News

Tec7
  • 15 Dec

Tec7 integrated solution

Retail-only solutions and service provider Retail Assist has announced its new client, Tec7, as the first implementation to prove the value of the expanded offering which has resulted from its recent acquisition of the Merret supply chain business. Tec7 is a new business, conceived as the brainchild of retail entrepreneur Ravi Virdi, former Finance Director of computing and electronics success story, Micro Anvika. The Tec7 business specialises in the latest consumer electronics and IT products, which it sells through 22 specialist concessions within selected House of Fraser stores in England, Scotland and Wales. Ravi Virdi explains his conviction that, for the venture to succeed, a proven retail business solution needed to be in place from day one. “There was never any doubt that my chosen ‘foundation stone’ for the business would need to be delivered and supported by an experienced supplier with an excellent delivery record within retail.” Tec7 committed to the Merret supply chain solution, supported by infrastructure, hosting and support services from Retail Assist. Merret and Retail Assist’s multi-channel, international client base within high-street retailing gave Ravi Virdi a sense of confidence. “The fact that Merret offers merchandising, warehousing and MIS functionality as part of the standard package was a key element in my decision-making,” he continues. All areas of the Tec7 business benefit from integrated ‘one view of the truth’ information flows, with financial data being output on a daily basis to the Tec7 Sage Finance suite. The most demanding element of the project was the need to support a 6-week timeline for live operation, which incorporated a number of premises and structures. With stores spread from Glasgow to Plymouth, and Norwich to Cardiff, staff training was a challenge, as was the rollout of hardware and communications to all 22 concessions. An ADSL line was installed at every site, providing a dedicated link to the central Merret application at Retail Assist’s Data Centre. States Nigel Illingworth, Product Director at Retail Assist: “We’re delighted to have the opportunity to work closely with Ravi and his team in delivering this exciting new project. The short timescale meant that all teams pulled the stops out for a successful implementation.” Retail Assist is providing user and Merret application support via its Service Desk and its Client Services team. Sitting in the background is a new infrastructure, based upon an IBM I-Series which is hosted and supported at Retail Assist’s Northampton Data Centre. The infrastructure also encompasses Tec7’s Milton Keynes-based National Distribution Centre, which was set up with assistance from Retail Assist. This is the hub of day-to-day product activities, receiving goods and moving items in and out of stores as required. Head Office operations are based in Harrow and this environment had to be built into the network. Concludes Alan Morris, Managing Director at Retail Assist: “Tec7 came to us with the traditional demands of a new business: looking for a rapid market entry, underpinned by reliable and cost-effective technology. Its needs were wide-ranging in terms of infrastructure, software and services…
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Help Desk
  • 1 Dec

Route-map to PCI DSS compliance

Retail-only solutions and service provider, Retail Assist, has formed a specialist team to project-manage the route to achieving and maintaining PCI DSS compliance in conjunction with its retailer clients. By offering a dedicated resource to look at this critical subject, the company enables retailers to continue mainstream IT work without impact on inhouse staff. The team is headed by Retail Assist’s associate consultant, Geoff Clark. He believes that the greatest response will come from tier 2 retailers who have integrated systems and solutions but who lack the resources to concentrate on compliance as a separate exercise. He explains “PCI DSS compliance is not an opt-in; it’s unavoidable. But, as frequently happens with legislative topics, the approach to compliance is not always obvious. We know that PCI DSS is on everyone’s agenda but, for some, it has no fixed time-line. Also, for more complex retail groups with multi-faceted architectures, the challenge is a significant one.” Retail Assist has observed that many retailers are overwhelmed by the volume and complexity of information that exists on the subject, which rarely spells out the implications in retail business terms. The company believes that there is a need for practical advice and understanding of the impacts. Continues Geoff Clark: “Whilst the fundamentals of credit card processing are common to all retailers, the way in which they are applied can vary and have compliance implications. Our USP is that we tell retailers what it means to them. We identify the hot spots and the likely practical implications, then work these through with the retailer to tailor-make the route to compliance.” The initial phase of the project is a consultation meeting which explains the topic from a business perspective as opposed to banking terms. A pre-compliance audit is then conducted to assess the retailer’s exposure, based upon its solutions, processes and knowledge. Retail Assist is already working on PCI DSS compliance with two of its clients in the apparel sector and is also offering the service to the wider market. “It’s clear that this can be useful to other retailers, so we’re extending it beyond our user base as a stand-alone project that retailers can contract for.” Concludes Geoff Clark: “PCI DSS is not just about becoming compliant as a one-off project in the way that Year 2000 was; it’s about remaining compliant. Retailers need to be self-regulating and make sure their working practices and methodologies are compliant going forward. We can help them to achieve this.”…
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Harvey Nichols
  • 20 Nov

Retail Assist partners with Board

Retail-only solutions and service provider, Retail Assist, has concluded a partnership with software house, Board International, that will see Business Intelligence (BI) capabilities integrated within the company’s Merret supply chain solution and made available to other retail clients. Explains Nigel Illingworth, Product Director at Retail Assist: “Business Intelligence is a critical function in today’s highly-measurable and accountable retail organisations. Whilst many of our Merret users have separate BI tools, there was a clear requirement for an integrated tool that could report on all elements of business: finance, stores and HR, in addition to the supply chain.” Over a 3-month period, Retail Assist ‘beauty-paraded’ ten different BI solutions. With assistance from one of its largest clients, the company used a comprehensive weighted scoring system to evaluate the options. Board came out as the clear winner. The factors that convinced Retail Assist of Board’s suitability included richness of functionality, scalability, an inbuilt database which removes reliance upon Microsoft SQL, and Board’s commitment to developing the UK market. Board International provides the industry’s only programming-free toolkit for development of Corporate Performance Management (CPM) and Business Intelligence (BI) applications. It has enabled more than 1,800 companies to integrate the support, control and management of core processes such as planning, budgeting, forecasting, monitoring, analysis and reporting into a single platform. Board is already well established in the retail sector and boasts clients such as Puma, Salomon, Miss Sixty, Mackays Stores and Charlotte Russe. Integration of Board functionality within Merret is now taking place. All new Merret packaged MIS reporting will be performed via the Board system and existing reports will be transferred over time. The new capability will be branded as Merret BI and will provide a snapshot of business performance using metrics such as sales, stock, orders, margins, product mix, and variance to periods, plans and forecasts within a number of territories, channels and attribute views. Continues Nigel Illingworth: “An integrated Business Intelligence capability of this degree of sophistication adds greatly to Merret’s competitive advantage. The arsenal of reports that we can offer extends to extracting data from the many applications that a retailer may be using. Merret BI can go beyond supply chain reporting to produce a universal view of the business.” Concludes Alan Morris, Managing Director at Retail Assist: “Our aspirations are clear. By combining our retail expertise with Board’s functional expertise, we have an impressive offering that enables us to provide a ‘one stop shop’ when it comes to BI implementations and upgrades. We will also be able to demonstrate a clear dividing line between Merret and other supply chain solutions in relation to integrated MIS and BI reporting functionality.”…
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Help Desk
  • 1 Nov

New FM Service Desk

Retail-only solutions and service provider Retail Assist has announced an extension of one of its core IT Service Desk capabilities, In addition to providing a comprehensive 24/365 IT Service Desk to a number of retailers, the company has extended this to a complete Facilities Management Service Desk offering. Retailers can now enjoy an expanded service which provides either a full-time or “out of hours” resource to manage all calls relating to buildings and operational items, from incident through to resumption of service. Incident management and reporting are conducted to Operational (OLA) and/or Service Level Agreements (SLA). Explains Dan Smith, Managed Services Director at Retail Assist: “Our teams already support a wide range of retail applications and store systems. It seemed a natural progression to extend our Service Desk to constitute a hub for all the problem areas to which a retailer can be exposed. We apply the same benefits of flexibility, expertise, cost-effectiveness and ownership that our IT Service Desk users enjoy to a full FM service.” FM support can be retained in isolation or as part of a joint FM/IT service, and will include the proactive trend analysis, supplier management and continuous performance review that IT Service Desk users such as Warehouse, Principles, adams kids, World Duty Free Europe (WDFE), Harvey Nichols, Inglot, Threshers and Odin already benefit from. The first opportunity to provide an FM Service Desk has come through Retail Assist’s joint venture with international management & construction consultants, Gleeds, whereby 24/7 support is made available to Marks and Spencer’s 25 outlet stores located throughout the UK. Concludes Alan Morris, Managing Director at Retail Assist: “Retailers are finding that there’s much to be gained from creating a centralised Service Desk which provides timely and quality support to store staff, distribution centre and head office users alike. A single point of contact for all systems-related issues, and for incident and problem management covering store systems, general retail operations and facilities management, is a cost-effective and efficient approach.”…
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Help Desk
  • 17 Sep

Merret extends into Microsoft .NET

Retail-only solutions and service provider Retail Assist plans to rollout its award-winning Merret supply chain solution on the Microsoft .NET platform from Q2 2008. “IBM System i has proved to be a great platform for many retailers who use Merret to achieve measurable business benefits,” explained Nigel Illingworth, Product Director at Retail Assist. “By extending Merret’s proven capabilities into the highly flexible and cost-effective Microsoft .NET arena, we can give retailers more choice in how they deploy and benefit from the solution, whatever retail model they employ and whatever stage of maturity their business is at. We believe Merret has been one of the industry’s “best-kept secrets” despite its huge potential to drive better business, and we want to ensure it can reach as wide an audience as possible.” Alan Morris, Managing Director at Retail Assist, added: “Retailers know better than most that customers like to have a choice. We’re simply following the same approach, giving retailers another way to deploy Merret, to improve efficiency and achieve cost savings. Retail Assist is uniquely positioned to harness the strengths of both the IBM and Microsoft platforms.” Until now, Merret was only available on System i (previously iSeries), a platform chosen by many retailers for its robustness and scalability, and the solution will continue to be developed in System i. The Microsoft .NET programme follows discussions with existing and prospective Retail Assist clients, and will help the company extend its growing Merret user base by leveraging the brand loyalty and familiarity associated with Microsoft products. Merret has achieved exceptional success since launching in 2001. No stranger to industry accolades, its most recent win was the 2007 European Retail Solutions Award for ‘Best use of e-commerce in a retail environment’ in partnership with Fresca and Rubicon Retail.…
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Harvey Nichols
  • 10 Sep

Harvey Nichols implements Merret Store Scanner solution

Harvey Nichols is a luxury lifestyle store, renowned internationally for its fashion merchandise. It offers many of the world’s most prestigious brands in womenswear, menswear, accessories, beauty and food. Harvey Nichols has stores in London, Manchester, Edinburgh, Birmingham, Leeds, Dublin, Riyadh, Hong Kong, Dubai and Istanbul. The London flagship store is in the heart of Knightsbridge. The Challenge Harvey Nichols wanted to create a multi-user, Head Office controlled, back-office handheld device solution to provide real-time stock movements and improved management information. The alternative was paper-based processes but, with huge volumes of information and thousands of product codes to be input, this was time-consuming and error-prone. Handhelds were felt to be the optimum approach given that it’s not always possible to have PCs and screens in data input locations such as store back-rooms, loading bays and shop-floors. Following the successful introduction of a scanner-based solution in the warehouse with Retail Assist’s Merret application, Harvey Nichols felt the time was right to deploy this in their stores. “We wanted to replace inefficient and inaccurate manual processes in stores. Our goals were resource efficiencies, improved accuracy, real-time validation of stock and fast problem-solving. This solution was particularly important given we’re a luxury store dealing with high-value merchandise,” states Alistair McDonald, Supply Chain Systems Manager, Harvey Nichols The Solution In addition to transacting internal processes and stock movements quickly and accurately, the solution had to be robust, cost-effective, easy to deploy to remote store locations, and should not require complicated networks and additional physical cabling beyond cabling RF points. The solution was designed to use Radio Frequency communications, but operators don’t need to rely purely on RF signal coverage to perform stock functions. This is a particular issue with retail space inside listed buildings, or underground in high-density locations where 100% coverage can be a challenge. Development and deployment was a joint venture. Retail Assist’s Merret application team specified the solution and was involved in developing the central elements, while Harvey Nichols handled the scanner side. Harvey Nichols’ point-of-sale provider, Itim, developed the first phase of the store scanners which were then embedded into the overall development by the Harvey Nichols and Merret application team. The Harvey Nichols internal development team then continued with the remaining application phases. The Store Receiving went live in Autumn 2006, while Returns/Recalls launched in early 2007. This is an evolving solution, with further developments and enhancements continuing. The Benefits Harvey Nichols has improved efficiency and accuracy across the store estate in terms of stock movements. It has achieved time savings and can support its retail operations and staff more effectively. The availability of real-time information has proved particularly valuable. Given that Harvey Nichols deals with high value merchandise, knowing with complete accuracy whether it has, for instance, one or two £3,000 dresses in stock can make a big difference. Thanks to the store scanner solution, the business can now track stock far more effectively so that, in the case of lost stock or theft, it can follow an…
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Paperchase
  • 10 Aug

Paperchase highlights Merret benefits

With more than 100 UK outlets, including standalone stores, concessions within Borders, selected Selfridges and House of Fraser stores, plus operations within Singapore and Australia, Paperchase is the retail brand leader in design-led, innovative stationery. Merret impressed Paperchase with the depth and breadth of functionality within its integrated solution, ability to deliver within short timescales, plus hands-on retail experience. It was able to provide a single platform for product management, purchase order management, allocations and replenishment, warehouse management and MIS reporting. The results were: Improved business performance in terms of sales turnover and profitability Predicted system payback within 18 months Increased functionality in all areas An uplift in user productivity Better control of the supply chain “Once Merret was up and running, we saw a material increase in sales on a like-for-like basis,” explains Gary Mudie, Global CIO of Paperchase. “We attribute a 6.4% sales uplift to Merret during the financial year 06-07,” said David Bateman, Global CFO…
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Retail Assist
  • 20 Jun

Retail Assist and Merret join forces

Retail-only solution and service provider, Retail Assist, has announced that it will acquire award-winning supply chain software provider, Merret, on 1st August 2007. This move will enable Retail Assist to further strengthen its offer, providing end-to-end retail applications together with a comprehensive range of platform-independent managed services. Alan Morris, Managing Director of Retail Assist, said: “We’re delighted with this development. Integrating Merret and Retail Assist means we can provide a fuller service to UK and international retailers and more opportunities for our industry partners.” One of the motivations for this acquisition is Retail Assist’s belief that the new battleground for retail technology will be the integration of supply chain and merchandising systems. Explained Morris: “Retailers are turning their attention to supply chain and merchandising and are looking for systems such as Merret. Easy to implement and simple to use, Merret combines high functionality with an excellent cost of ownership. We believe that it has the capacity to become a leader in its field.” Whilst the operations are being brought together under the Retail Assist banner, Merret will continue as the brand name for the supply chain solution. The two businesses are owner-managed, share a similar culture and common clients amongst department store and fashion retailers. The combined companies’ headcount will be 100 employees. The Merret product has achieved exceptional success since its launch in 2001. No stranger to industry accolades, its most recent win was the 2007 European Retail Solutions Award for ‘Best use of e-commerce in a retail environment’ in partnership with Fresca and Rubicon Retail. Nigel Illingworth, currently Managing Director of Merret, will become Retail Assist’s Product Director. Morris will continue as the company’s Managing Director. Nigel Illingworth commented: “This is a great match between two successful businesses and we believe our current and future customers can only benefit. We will continue to make significant investments in the development of Merret. As well as maintaining the solution on the IBM iSeries platform, we will migrate it to Microsoft .NET.” The new enlarged business will combine: Managed Services – including 24/7 Help Desk, Applications Support, Technical Services & Operations, Data Centre, Hardware Maintenance, and Disaster Recovery. Products & Solutions – development, integration, deployment and support of Head Office and Supply Chain systems from merchandising to replenishment and finance. These will include Merret, Ra-X and selected third-party systems. Delivery of fully-managed solutions across these areas will come from Retail Assist’s in-house Implementation and Support teams. Morris concluded: “Our aim is to grow the business and offer a broader range of skills and expertise to our clients. We will expand our applications portfolio and, through integration with our managed services, offer retailers the end-to-end technology solutions that their businesses need to succeed.”…
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Retail Assist news
  • 20 Jun

Merret wins ERSA 2007 E-Commerce award

Market-leading supply chain solution, Merret, has secured its second win in the European Retail Solutions Awards. At last week’s ceremony, its partnership with Fresca and Rubicon Retail was recognised by the judges as the ‘Best use of e-commerce in a retail environment’. The award-winning application was based upon the creation of a web-based home shopping platform for three key brands in the Mosaic Fashions portfolio. Initially developed for Principles and Warehouse, the project was subsequently rolled out to include the four Shoe Studio Group brands. Explains Merret’s Nigel Illingworth: “The aim of the project was to merchandise the full range via the web, giving customers the benefit of optimum product availability and exceptional service. A streamlined and hassle-free process was the goal, enabling home customers to order goods and, if required, return them by post or via the stores.” The timescale for the project was very demanding: to deliver in just 5 months a new, end-to-end, fully-integrated, multi-country, web home shopping business. Complete system integration was required between the shopping site and the back-end systems for stock, fulfillment despatch and returns. A single stock pool was built to service all channels and to eliminate the double stock handling issues that challenge many multi-channel retailers. At the same time, processes were put in place to reserve stock for the web business to ensure core lines were always available for home shoppers. An additional sophistication was the need to service the UK and Ireland with differential pricing and currency functions. Shopper location recognition allows the correct pricing and delivery information to be displayed to customers in different regions. This process also provides a model that will support the retailer’s European expansion. The new transactional websites are powered by online shopping experts, Fresca Commerce. Incorporating easy navigation, high-quality graphics and a sophisticated search mechanism, they offer fast and pleasurable product selection. Checkout and payment processes are rapid and are backed up by call centre operations. The sites are tightly integrated with the Merret solution which, based in an IBM i-Series environment, takes care of all elements of the supply chain. These include centralised content management, stock allocation, handling Distribution Centre orders, ‘pick, pack & despatch’, and the processing of returns. Concludes Nigel Illingworth: “Our project impressed the judges by its delivery within timescale, to specification and to budget. At the same time, they commended our partnership for creating an exceptional web-based shopping experience which sets standards for other retailers to follow.”…
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Coast, Oasis, Karen Millen and Warehouse
  • 10 Jun

Mosaic Fashions international store support

As a number of the Mosaic Fashions brands including Oasis, Coast and Karen Millen undertake a major expansion drive into overseas markets, the retailer has turned to its established IT partner, Retail Assist, to provide an international Help Desk function. Mosaic Fashions has a growing store estate outside of the UK. Retail Assist has been appointed to provide a 1st Line Help Desk service from its Bingham Support Centre to 48 solus and concession stores in Europe and the US. The new service is an extension to the data exchange and communications services that Retail Assist already provides to these operations. Central to the service will be support of Mosaic’s new Microsoft .NET-based EPoS solution. Supplied by BT Expedite, Connected Retailer ® Store 6.0 includes point-of-sale and CRM functions. It has been rolled out across all of Mosaic’s fashion brands as a single solution for Europe and the UK and is the final stage of IT systems consolidation for the retail group. Explains Paula Parsons, Head of IT Services at Mosaic Fashions: “We are confident that Retail Assist’s Help Desk can add value and efficiency to our business. The new service will also support the rollout of our inhouse-developed store applications: Storeplus for international solus stores and Wepos for all other sites including our main brand concessions.” Help Desk Support is one of Retail Assist’s core offerings. It currently delivers 24/7 or out-of-hours cover from its centralised, retail-specific team to the head office, store and distribution centre staff of retail clients such as World Duty Free Europe, Harvey Nichols and adams kids. It has for some time also supported the UK-based Warehouse and Principles operations. States Retail Assist’s Managed Services Director, Dan Smith: “We welcome this next phase in our relationship with Mosaic Fashions and are pleased that it has once again recognised the benefits of selective outsourcing for its international retail requirements.” A member of the Help Desk Institute (HDI) and driven by service-level agreements, Retail Assist prides itself on a service that includes incoming telephone calls being answered within 6 rings and the achievement of an 84% first time fix rate, on average per annum.…
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