- 21 Apr 2014
15 Years of Retail Assist – Interview with Nigel Hodgkins Blog
With our 15th Birthday drawing ever closer we are continuing to speak to team members who have been with us from the very beginning. Last week we interviewed Leigh Mann, a Support Analyst Team Leader, working at our Northampton Applications Centre.
This week we have been talking to Nigel Hodgkins who is a Store Development Project Manager, based at our Nottingham Head Office. Nigel has worked at Retail Assist since the very beginning, even before Retail Assist was established. Nigel always has a lot of funny and interesting stories to tell in the office, so this latest blog post will make an interesting read.
What does your role involve, and how has this changed over the last 15 years?
- My first role was to help build and install the till systems for Sports Division. The company wanted someone with retail background who could spend 4 days on site training the staff on the POS and providing opening support. This included sites in Northern Ireland and Dublin.
When the Sports Division contract finished, my role then was to provide onsite training and support for the Outfit New Store opening programme. This would involve 2 weeks onsite training of up to 100 staff and then providing onsite support for the opening. This went on for a period of 6 months, after which I then transferred to the Help Desk.
After that the Adams contract was won and the Helpdesk expanded to 6 people working in pairs to cover the weekends. I was teamed up with “Marion” who was a strange character to say the least! She soon left.
When I started as a contractor in 1997, I worked on the Sports Division rollout in Cabourne House, Bingham, an office where we built all the Outfit tills in a tiny attic space on wallpaper pasting tables -very professional, and where the walls used to rattle when the freight trains came through! By September 1999 Retail Assist had moved offices from Cabourne House to a bigger site in Bingham.
I later moved from the Helpdesk to work on Store Development, to manage the Adams new store opening programme. When Rubicon came along I managed the Telewest rollout of all Rubicon sites and then all their new store development. This has continued with new clients coming on board, and any new Store Development usually comes to me, including rollouts of new PCs, EFT rollouts etc…
What would you say the most significant change has been in retail over the last 15 years?
- I would say POS software – notably mobile POS solutions has been the most obvious change, with the advance of the Internet, ship from store and online sales high up there. There is also the increased development of the Polling relationships with Host Department stores, enabling clients to set up quickly with no POS Hardware installation requirement. Our solution RAX has had a massive influence on this.
What changes have you seen at Retail Assist over the last 15 years?
- The obvious changes are how much we have grown. We began working from a tiny office at Cabourne House, in 1997, to our current set up of 6 offices and no longer knowing everyone who works for Retail Assist. 15 years ago everyone knew each other well as there were only a handful of people.
The company has grown so well it now has several departments, Christmas parties used to be small affairs, normally one table and you could bring partners! This is quite different to now, in which the Retail Assist staff alone fill a full room, and we have parties across the different offices.
What is your favourite aspect of working at Retail Assist?
- There is a very low staff turn-over at RA so it is a close knit affair! This is a credit to Alan Morris and Gary Broughton who set a good work ethic so that people love working for Retail Assist, the ones that leave and think life is better elsewhere often come back – just ask Roger!
- There is a very good working relationship within the company and people are very conscious of the need to supply a good service to our clients. It’s really great working with a good team you can rely on. The only downside is you are always checking your email, even at weekends, you can’t get away from work!
Most memorable/funniest Retail Assist experience?
- My most memorable aspect has to be meeting my good wife during the Outfit Peterborough installation Feb 1999! The funniest moment was when everyone found out we were an “item”. Gary Broughton turned up at the next installation in March 1999, at Outfit Bristol. I was training 10 staff members at the cash desks, prior to the store opening one morning and I turned around to see Gary stood behind me! He came to give me a warning on interfering with the “clients” – I think he was worried Outfit might drop the contract! Since then Alan has put me on the Retail Assist naughty list!
- Another amusing story includes Jim Christie, a technical guy who looked a bit like Chris Evans on a bad day! Bit of a Geek! He had a strange ability to wind Gary and Alan up but was very clever and new everything, apparently! He borrowed Gary’s Mazda 6 to go out on a job when we were at Cabourne House in 1999 and then returning later with the front bumper hanging on by his tie. He had hit a bus in a bus lane. Gary had just had the car serviced (or repaired) and had been waiting a while to get it back – only to lose it again!
- Watching the full eclipse of the sun in Cabourne House car park was pretty impressive.
- The Adams Millennium bug had so much work and effort go into a POS software project, and nothing happened at midnight 01012000!
- Rob Willetts was a contractor, as well as my brother in law and a Bernie Ecclestone(F1) look alike (just a bit taller). Rob worked for us for a few years and worked on the Adams, Rubicon and the Adams millennium bug projects. Rob certainly is a strange guy and had/has some funny habits which kept everyone amused. He was famous for doing the quizzes at the Christmas parties, he also liked bringing in various items of clothing, namely his ‘Jimmy hat’ – photos are available.
- My final favourite memory involved being able to watch Crossroads film funerals in Bingham church from the office. Crossroads was a soap that was filmed in Birmingham, in a fictional Motel that ran initially in the 1960’s and was as big as Coronation Street for a while. It was pensioned off then resurrected in the 1990’s for a while. They used to film every wedding or funeral scene in Bingham church/church yard. Funnily enough in the 1970’s I used to work in the Bell Inn at Harbourne in Birmingham and the cast of crossroads used to rehearse in the church hall next door. During lunch breaks they would visit the pub and I ended up serving drinks to Noele Gordon (Meg Mortimer), Paul Henry (Benny – famous for his woolly hat), and all the other “stars”.
If you have enjoyed reading this blog and are interested in reading about other members of our team then keep an eye on our blog here and also our twitter: @RetailAssist #15YearsofRA for updates and latest blogs.
For more information about Retail Assist then please contact us on firstname.lastname@example.org or 0115 853 3910.