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IT services and solutions for retail and hospitality

News

  • 20 Dec

Retail Assist 2012 Restructure

As Retail Assist continues to grow and support some of the major brands in retail, the business has taken the decision to change its senior management structure to reflect the core areas of operations; Managed Services and the Merret supply chain solution. The re-organisation will be effective from the beginning of 2012. From the 1st January Nigel Illingworth will become Chief Executive Officer and Gary Broughton Chief Operating Officer of Merret. Nigel’s role will be focussed upon the on-going development of the Merret applications whilst Gary will be responsible for implementations and the support of the products. Nigel and Gary, who are currently the Retail Assist Product Services Director and Professional Services Director respectively, were two of the original founders of the business. Dan Smith, the current Managed Services Director, will become Chief Executive Officer for Managed Services. Dan will be responsible for the provision and on-going development of the managed support services. Dan joined the Board of Retail Assist in 2004, bringing with him more than 20 years’ experience in multi-site manufacturing and retail support. A Chief Operating Officer for Managed Services will also be appointed in due course. Alan Morris, co-founder of Retail Assist and current Managing Director comments: “As a result of this re-structuring I will be able to focus on the overall development of Retail Assist as we look to strengthen our market position. My position will be Executive Chairman and I will be responsible for implementing our strategy as well as being responsible for the day to day operation of our internal shared services such as Human Resources, Commercial Management, Sales and Marketing.” Tim Moxon will continue in his role as Chief Finance Officer being responsible for finance and governance. Prior to joining Retail Assist in 2004, Tim had been providing the company with property consultancy and had managed the acquisition of its new Nottingham headquarters. Alan concludes: “The transition to the new structure will be seamless to our clients but we hope that the results of the exercise will be evident to them as they experience the improved services and products that the changes will deliver. On behalf of the entire team I would like to thank the businesses that we work with for their continued support of Retail Assist.”…
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  • 3 Dec

SuperGroup Selects IT Services from Retail Assist

SuperGroup Plc, the parent company of iconic young fashion brands Superdry, Cult, SurfCo California and 77Breed has overhauled its existing IT services provision with the help of Retail Assist. Retail Assist is providing a first line Help Desk for SuperGroup between the hours of 8am and 9pm, and 24/7 remote infrastructure management services. Hardware maintenance for stores is being provided by ICM, and managed by Retail Assist. SuperGroup contracted with Retail Assist to support the strategic objectives of the business. The group has invested in an extensive store rollout program, and earlier this year announced the opening of a new flagship location on Regent Street in the space formerly occupied by Austin Reed. Neil Hooper, IT Infrastructure Manager at SuperGroup explains: “Following SuperGroup’s rapid growth the company wanted to find a partner who could support our current and future expansion plans, and with Retail Assist, we found this.” Hooper continues: “It was critical to the business that a complete range of IT services, and the option of 24/7 cover was provided via a cost effective shared service model. Retail Assist were already delivering 24/7 support to a number of well known retailers, and doing it well. The company was therefore confident that they could make a positive contribution to SuperGroup’s vital operations and also take on the service rapidly.” The timescales for the project were tight, with only six weeks to go-live after the contract was confirmed. Retail Assist are providing a single point of contact for all IT issues across the entire SuperGroup store estate, including own branded retail outlets and concessions. Dan Smith, Managed Services Director at Retail Assist comments: “SuperGroup now have a scalable IT services structure in place that will support the future growth of the business. Investing in shared services also means a low overall cost of ownership and access to a wider resource pool.” Smith concludes: “Retail Assist are delighted to have won the SuperGroup contract and successfully delivered the IT transition, however our work continues. Delivering service improvements and call reduction are ongoing projects, as they are for all our clients”.…
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  • 3 Sep

Retail Assist sponsor Retail Systems ‘IT project of the year’ award

It has today been announced that Retail Assist will sponsor the ‘IT project of the year’ category at the forthcoming Retail Systems awards. Now in their sixth year, the awards present an opportunity for organisations to gain the prestige of public and retail industry acknowledgement as being the leader in their field. The ‘IT project of the year’ award will recognise a retailer who has delivered a successful IT project into its operations. The criteria are that the project has met all requirements and has improved the overall operations of the organisation. The innovation of the technology employed by the retailer will be assessed. Shortlisted in the ‘IT project of the year’ category is Barclays Bank, The Carphone Warehouse with RedPrairie, Co-operative Group with Kronos, EAST with Vodat, JD Sports Fashion with VSc Solutions, The Post Office, Republic with Torex and Thomas Pink with BT Expedite and Fresca. The winner of this and the other categories will be announced at a ceremony on the 26th October. Alan Morris, Managing Director at Retail Assist will be presenting the ‘IT project of the year’ award to the successful company or partnership. Alan comments: “We decided to sponsor this category based on Retail Assist’s track record of delivering award-winning IT projects within the retail industry. I’d like to take this opportunity to congratulate all of the nominees. The companies that have been shortlisted are very diverse, and reflect the varied and exciting nature of the retail industry. I look forward to meeting the winners of this award on what should be a lively and entertaining evening.” Separately, Retail Assist have been shortlisted in a different award category at the Retail Systems awards. The IT solutions and services provider has been nominated with client White Stuff within the ‘IT team of the year’ category, sponsored by Verifone.…
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  • 10 Aug

White Stuff and Retail Assist shortlisted at the 2011 Retail Systems Awards

The Retail Systems Awards judging panel has shortlisted fashion and lifestyle retailer White Stuff with IT specialist Retail Assist in the 2011 ‘IT Team of the Year’ category. The award, sponsored by Verifone, was designed to celebrate the achievements of a retail organisation’s IT Department over the past year. Because White Stuff outsourced selected IT services including their out-of-hours Help Desk and server monitoring to Retail Assist over the past 12 months, the IT solutions and services company was considered part of White Stuff’s wider IT Team. Dan Smith, Managed Services Director at Retail Assist comments: “Being shortlisted in any category at the Retail Systems Awards is a real honour, but being recognised alongside White Stuff as an integral part of their wider IT Department is an excellent achievement for the Retail Assist teams who work on this account.” “At Retail Assist, we like to form enduring partnerships with retailers.  Whilst our average client contract is initially agreed at 4.4 years, the actual duration of client contracts are as high as 11 years in some cases, and contracts have been renewed as many as 9 times with certain clients. We were delighted to win the White Stuff contract over the past 12 months. In the coming years our aim is to see this partnership go from strength to strength.” Growing year-on-year, the Retail Systems Awards will move to a new location for the 2011 ceremony, the Lancaster London Hotel, in order to accommodate the expected high turnout from the Retail IT sector. The Retail Systems Awards judging panel is comprised of a number of industry experts, including representatives from Tesco.com and The Book Depository. In the ‘IT team of the Year’ category, the judges will assess the work done by retail IT Departments over the past 12 months, including how they have resolved issues, whilst analysing how the technology employed has helped to create business benefits for each retailer. The winners of ‘IT team of the Year’ and of an additional 18 categories will be announced on the 26th October. The ceremony will be hosted by ‘Mock the Week’ and ‘8 Out of 10 Cats’ comedian Alun Cochrane.…
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  • 3 Aug

Retail Assist IT a Key Driver of Success for Bidvest Logistics

Bidvest Logistics, preferred logistics partner of numerous household names within the food, drink and hospitality industry including Burger King, Nando’s, KFC, Pizza Hut, Pizza Express, Ask, Zizzi, Byron, Pret a Manger, Compass, InterContinental Hotels, Greene King and Spudulike has outsourced selected IT services to Retail Assist, technology partner of many famous retail and leisure brands such as ASOS, Harvey Nichols, Selfridges, La Senza, Paperchase and VUE. The global Bidvest Group operates through two businesses in the UK; 3663 Wholesale and Bidvest Logistics. Previously, IT services for Bidvest Logistics had been provided via the 3663 Wholesale arm of the business. However a requirement for an independent IT platform was identified to allow the wholesale and logistics elements to be run separately to fulfil future expansion plans. Cindy Howarth, Director of IT at Bidvest Logistics explains: “The selective outsourcing model we have chosen allows the team here to concentrate on our core competencies. Bidvest is in the logistics sector, not the IT sector. That said, IT is a key driver of our business. Working with a specialist company such as Retail Assist allows Bidvest Logistics to retain a competitive edge by enabling us to be agile and meet the demands of our internal and external customers far quicker than we have been able to do in the past.” A key requirement of the project was the transition of the Minster Logistics Servers (the key operational system used by Bidvest) housed in the 3663 Data Centre. The primary Data Centre is now Retail Assist’s secure facility in Northampton, with the failover servers located at the Royton Bidvest Logistics depot ensuring a fully resilient solution. Retail Assist is housing servers for Bidvest Logistics in Northampton and supporting those housed at the secondary location. 24/7 Operations support and monitoring is being provided. Prior to the transition, Bidvest Logistics personnel had been using services from 3663 via a Citrix client; however the transformation included a full replacement of all depot IT equipment and upgrading to the latest versions of Microsoft product. Retail Assist was tasked with rolling out a mixture of desktops and laptops to 270 staff across 6 locations nationwide in under 4 weeks as well as building all the central infrastructure to support the new desktop environment. First line support for these users is being provided via Retail Assist’s Help Desk and second line cover via Retail Assist’s desktop support team. Hardware maintenance is being provided by ICM and managed by Retail Assist. The tender process was managed by Independent Retail Consultant Peter Baxter, who was tasked with ensuring that the supplier chosen could work to fulfil Bidvest’s business strategy. Comments Baxter: “The timescales were rigid, as it was critical the full transformation was achieved prior to the busy summer trading season, missing this deadline would have meant a 3 month delay which would have incurred avoidable cost, so the new IT infrastructure had to be in place before this date. Retail Assist had carried out extensive due diligence, so knew and met Bidvest’s…
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Mint Velvet IT Outsourcing
  • 10 Jun

Retail Assist’s Multichannel Research Report 2011

Retail Assist recently carried out a Multichannel Retail survey, in which individuals were invited to identify their current shopping habits and their future purchasing intentions. The purpose of the research was to gain insight, which will be of value to retailers wishing to develop their multichannel strategy. Background The respondents to the survey were all professionals working in retail IT, within an age range of 16-65. The participant mix was 56.6% males and 43.3% females, all of whom were located throughout the UK. The survey investigated preferred shopping channels, frequency of purchase and type of purchases made using the various multichannel options on offer. The research was designed to assess the different channels currently available and customers’ use and requirements in each. Results Alex Ievins, Marketing Manager at Retail Assist, summarises the findings: “Our research supports the theory that customers are choosing to buy in different ways.  Whilst there are now a growing number of routes to market, the preferred channels are currently stores and the internet.  Stores still take the lead at 64.9%, with 95.3% of research done prior to purchase predominantly being internet-based.” Continues Ievins: “The number of Smartphone owners in our study was high (77%), the majority (50%) of whom had an iPhone.  Although most owners were not currently using their ‘phone for purchasing, some respondents had done so.  We certainly identified more regular activity in comparison to a year ago, leading to rising expectations of this channel.” Although stores currently still attract the highest volume of purchases, the research suggests that this is declining.  A significant level of respondents indicated that they made purchases from stores less frequently now than they did a year ago. It would appear that each channel is being used to purchase different types of products.  Food/drink and clothing were the most frequently purchased items from stores, the internet was used most regularly to purchase electrical items, and catalogues were used most regularly to purchase clothing. However, the catalogue channel did not emerge from this survey as a dominant purchasing tool.  The majority of respondents are neither using the channel, nor planning to increase their usage in the short-term. So, whilst channels such as m-commerce and e-commerce are growing, some of the more traditional channels such as catalogues are decreasing in popularity. Alex concludes: “It would appear from our research that product reviews positively influence the purchasing decision.   The majority of respondents expressed loyalty to certain stores and owned, on average, one to two loyalty cards. As regards delivery, despite the growing number of choices available, the favoured option was free delivery.” “The growing use of social media was evident in the study with 70% of respondents having a Facebook account. Whilst some did not view this as a purchasing channel, certain participants had purchased via a social media store. The expectation of which channels customers see themselves using in the future is already changing.  It will be interesting to see which of these areas continue to grow, which decline, and if…
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  • 3 Jun

Retail Assist, Whistles and BT Expedite win ‘Investigo Project Implementation of the Year’ at the Retail Week Technology Awards 2011

The judging panel of this year’s Retail Week Technology Awards named a team of Retail Assist, Whistles and BT Expedite personnel winners of the ‘Investigo Project Implementation of the Year’ award at the London Hilton last night. The lively ceremony was well attended by key representatives from both the Retail and IT industries. The Retail Assist, Whistles and BT Expedite partnership were successful in a highly contested category; other companies shortlisted for ‘Investigo Project Implementation of the Year’ included New Look with Accenture Merchandising and Location Planning, O2 with Torex, Sainsbury’s with Catalina and The Co-Operative Group. This is the second consecutive year that Retail Assist has been successful in the ‘Investigo Project Implementation’ category at the Retail Week Technology Awards. In 2010, new womenswear retailer Mint Velvet and Retail Assist scooped the award. Alan Morris, Managing Director at Retail Assist comments: “Winning at this prestigious industry event at all – let alone two years in a row – is a real honour because the awards celebrate innovation in retail and the primary judging criteria are the delivery of definable and significant business benefits.” He continues: “As a company, Retail Assist seeks tangible ROI for all of our clients. Mint Velvet and Whistles are two different businesses, but both are key Retail Assist customers. We’re delighted to have been recognised alongside them for the high standard of work that has been achieved.” “Retail Assist are currently undertaking a number of exciting implementations with other well known retail brands – perhaps one of them would like to enter the ‘Project Implementation of the Year’ category with us at the Retail Technology Awards next year – in an ideal World I’d love for Retail Assist to make it a hat-trick!” Alan jokes.…
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  • 17 May

‘Business as usual’ as Aurora confirms IT outsourcing to Retail Assist

48 staff and all IT functions have moved across to the provider Following the announcement of proposed changes earlier this year and a period of exclusive discussions with Retail Assist, the multi-brand Aurora Fashions group can now confirm that it has outsourced its IT functions to the retail-only solutions and IT managed services provider. Some 48 Aurora employees have joined Retail Assist.  All will continue to work from their current offices in London and Oxfordshire. Explains Retail Assist’s co-founder and managing director, Alan Morris: “In one form or another, we’ve worked with Aurora for 9 years.  We originally worked with the Warehouse and Principles brands, then with Mosaic Fashions.  When the businesses emerged as Aurora Fashions, we continued and built upon our existing relationship.” When, as part of its corporate strategy, Aurora looked to outsource infrastructure services including IT, the company invited Retail Assist to put forward a proposal detailing how they could move from services supplier to manage Aurora’s entire IT operation. Retail Assist was successful in reaching an agreement in a competitive scenario. Alan Morris observes: “The values and culture of Aurora Fashions are very similar to ours, which is one of the most crucial factors in these situations. We saw this as an opportunity to upscale our Managed Services Division. With Aurora’s international, multicurrency and multichannel growth strategy, the developments provide us with further skill sets and experience that equip us to engage with more retailers in a time when every retailer is looking to exploit these opportunities.” For both Aurora and Retail Assist, it will be ‘business as usual’.  The transition of Aurora employees has now been completed. The contract will allow Aurora’s brand-focused operational units to concentrate on customer service and business growth, and previous Aurora employees can look forward to future opportunities for career progression within a larger IT team. Richard Glanville, Chief Financial Officer of Aurora Fashions commented:  “This new structure –which has been achieved without any job losses, is very much about growth. We saw that Retail Assist were the ideal partner for the expansion required, an excellent fit for our staff, and a move that would allow our brands to focus on satisfying the needs of their customers.” For Aurora, the new arrangements will preserve the shared services benefits of cost-effectiveness, access to expertise and ‘best practice’ IT solutions, providing the group with a strong foundation for future growth.…
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  • 3 May

Whistles Implements Merret

Re-invented fashion brand picks Retail Assist’s supply chain solution as part of an IT infrastructure project to enable its independent status Cutting edge fashion retailer Whistles contracted with Retail Assist to help deliver an entire IT infrastructure following its purchase from Mosaic Fashions. Whistles required new systems to enable autonomy from former IT supplier Aurora, the group formed following the buyout of Mosaic Fashions. As part of a multi-faceted deal, Whistles selected Retail Assist’s Merret merchandising and warehousing solution, featuring a Business Intelligence and Corporate Performance Management module powered by BOARD; to power its new Distribution Centre managed by Clipper Logistics. The Merret application forms part of an integrated IT solution, and will drive the multichannel business forward through interfaces to Whistles’ BT Fresca ecommerce website, the upgraded BT Expedite Store6 EPoS solution in Whistles’ shops and store systems in multiple concession partners including Selfridges, Brown Thomas, Fenwicks, House of Fraser and John Lewis. The technical architecture provided by Retail Assist includes email systems for all users and stores, an active directory, intranet and SQL servers following the migration from previous supplier Aurora. All of Whistles’ new core servers are now hosted at Retail Assist’s Northampton Data Centre. Whistles’ IT and Logistics Director David Mold, comments: “Having a best of breed solution – Merret – for both Merchandising and Warehouse Management gives the optimal solution for both business areas through richer functionality; provides operational improvements, seamless integration of systems, and also reduces overheads when compared with the option of having separate systems looking after our new Distribution Centre.” The entire IT infrastructure was created and implemented in under six months. Yet to fulfil the highly seasonal nature of Whistles’ fashion business, purchase orders had to be raised using Merret only two months after the project was kicked off, to order stock that needed to be delivered to the new Whistles warehouse. David continues: “The solution delivered provides Whistles with the desired IT infrastructure tailored to our unique ‘retail DNA’. The systems will supply the management team with intelligent information to assist strategic decision making.” Concludes Retail Assist’s Managing Director, Alan Morris: “We’re delighted to be working with Whistles at such an exciting stage. The brand is going from strength to strength, and we’re proud to be playing our part in providing critical business systems which underpin Whistles’ capacity to trade.”…
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  • 2 Apr

Retail Assist shortlisted with Whistles and BT Expedite for Retail Week Technology Award 2011

IT solutions and services company shortlisted in ‘Investigo Project Implementation of the Year’ category for the second year running A recent Retail Assist project completed in partnership with cutting edge fashion retailer, Whistles and BT Expedite has been shortlisted in the ‘Investigo Project Implementation of the Year’ category at the 2011 Retail Week Technology Awards. Retail Assist was shortlisted in the very same category with new fashion brand Mint Velvet and BT Fresca the year before, and the partnership later went on to win the award. Alan Morris, Managing Director of Retail Assist comments: “We were extremely proud to win ‘Investigo Project Implementation of the Year 2010’, and obviously like to replicate the same success this year, however it’s an honour just to be shortlisted at these prestigious industry awards.” Alan continues: “I believe the fact that Retail Assist had already worked with, and was integrated with other parties in the shortlisted team, such as BT Fresca contributed to our success with this project.” This year’s winners will be chosen by a judging panel comprised of some of the best known names in Retail IT: Graham Benson – IT Director at MANDMDIRECT.COM, John Bovill – Group IT Director at Aurora Fashions, Peter Federico – IT Director at BMI, Peter Mila – Information Ecommerce and Logistics Director at Thomas Pink and Ian Woosey – Group IT and Ecommerce Director at Carpetright. The winners of ‘Investigo Project Implementation of the Year’ and the other categories will be announced on the evening of Tuesday 14th June. The awards ceremony will again be held at London’s Hilton Hotel on Park Lane, a venue that is now accustomed to playing host to some of the biggest names in the retail industry.…
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