IT services and solutions for retail and hospitality

Blog Archive

  • 20 Dec 2017
Retail Assist launches partnership with Mercaux
Retail Assist announces partnership with Mercaux to enable the digital in-store experience Retail Assist, the UK technology business whose IT software and support are used by leading brands in retail and hospitality, has partnered with Mercaux. The in-store technology company enables retailers to transform their in-store shopping experience by bringing the benefits of digital into physical stores. Mercaux, which supports the likes of United Colors of Benetton, L.K. Bennett and French Connection, offers a mobile platform that unifies a retailer’s online and in-store sales experience and empowers store associates to deliver an exceptional omnichannel customer journey. The in-store platform is supported by Machine Learning and empowers retailers to control their digital content, communicate with stores, and gather in-store analytics. L.K. Bennett launched the Mercaux app earlier this year across a number of London stores, helping store associates to increase basket size and provide optimised customer service. The relationship comes after Retail Assist gained multi-million pound private equity backing earlier this year; strategic partnerships will leverage further opportunities for business growth. Olga Kotsur, Co-founder and CEO of Mercaux, said: “Mercaux’s digital applications enable retailers to harness the power of digital in their stores, using them as an enablement tool to realize omnichannel capabilities. We were impressed with Retail Assist’s strong market credentials in the fashion retail sector, and our new partnership adds real value to their omnichannel proposition.” Dan Smith, CEO of Retail Assist, commented on the partnership: “Partnering with likeminded innovative technology businesses such as Mercaux provides us with the opportunity to penetrate the market further, with a new generation of technology for true omnichannel retailing.” “Current strategies such as ship-from-store are already helping our customers increase sales by 20%, and further improvements to stock visibility offers retailers the potential for even greater profitability.”   Find out more about Mercaux here. If you’re attending NRF in January, join us for a demo at Mercaux’s stand: just fill out your details here to schedule a meeting.…
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christmas 2017 video
  • 18 Dec 2017
Christmas 2017: A Year in Highlights
Retail Assist Christmas Video 2017 Retail Assist wishes you a Merry Christmas 2017! In the spirit of Christmas, we’d like to share with you our annual Christmas video. You can also watch the video on our YouTube channel here. Reflecting on 2017 2017 has been a milestone year for Retail Assist. In April, we gained a multimillion pound investment, which will support continued business growth for Retail Assist as a global, software-enabled solutions and services business. We also celebrated our 18th year of trading, and gained 4 new customers, including Jigsaw, our latest Help Desk customer. We’re proud to provide around the clock support to 40+ brands, across 9,500 sites in 65 countries across the globe, in 10 languages. (And that’s an industry leading set of stats!) We also became Services Company of the Year, awarded by the BCS Chartered Institute for IT. We have been working to deploy latest technology and are developing some of our own. (Look out for this in 2018!). Internally, we have pioneered a UK first management apprenticeship scheme, to progress our next generation of managers. Of course, we could not have achieved this without our customers, partners and colleagues; thank you for your continued support throughout 2017. Have a wonderful Christmas and here’s to a prosperous 2018!…
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supply chain
  • 11 Dec 2017
Identifying Weaknesses In Your Supply Chain
For any retailer, having a supply chain that operates tightly and without error is the key to success. Failings in the chain can lead to time inefficiency, profit damage and ultimately the loss of customer satisfaction. The ramifications of not placing attention on the management of a strong supply chain can be severe. As a result of this, retailers are increasingly looking for ways in which to identify and eliminate any weaknesses. Look at the entire supply chain Where many retailers fall down is in the ability to look at the chain as a whole, end-to-end: from what occurs just before the point at which the product enters the supply chain, and when it leaves. A good way of examining this is via process flow mapping. This can be achieved by looking at all aspects of the product, and the various inputs and outputs encountered throughout its creation and distribution. This exercise provides valuable insight and awareness into where third party communication may be required through the need to develop dependable interfaces, as well as where supply chain efficiency may be at risk through poor stock management. Optimise efficiency: Auto Replenishment System When looking for a way to ensure that stock levels are optimised, having a robust, flexible replenishment system is the first module to consider. Forming part of an omnichannel retailing approach, an auto replenishment system, such as Merret, assists with the movement of stock between locations via user defined algorithms, which allows retailers to have dynamic control and maintain correct inventory levels. Sales performance can be tracked, whilst promotions or seasonal increments can be forecasted and stock level changes made accordingly. Removing issues around products ‘out of stock’, an auto replenishment system uses rationing, ensuring stock reaches the destination it is most needed, and intelligent substitution of continuity items.  Optimise cost control: Purchase Order Management Forming part of the omnichannel supply chain, a further benefit of Merret is its Purchase Order Management system, which allows buyers to build product ranges with financial accuracy in changing environments. Landed costs are accurately calculated automatically, with variables such as freight & duty included. As purchase orders can be set as flexible, re-raising them if a delivery is incomplete is unnecessary; the system allows for receipt of additional deliveries, should they be required. Other advantages of using Purchase Order Management include purchase order creation defaults, and multi-drop purchases orders, which allow agreements with suppliers for large amounts of product, which can then be phased into the supply chain when required. Optimise stock levels: Central Stock Pool The cornerstone of any omnichannel supply chain is a central stock pool, sitting at the heart of the chain. From a central pool, orders can be fulfilled no matter which channel due to a single, centralised view, meaning that inventory is used in the most cost efficient manner. This encompasses what is held in the warehouse, as well as in stores. As a result of this, terminal stock is reduced with less excess ordering, supply chain…
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  • 4 Dec 2017
Retail data exchange solution: video
Our data exchange solution is enabling retailers to trade confidently across the globe with various partners. Watch our latest video to find out how Ra-X supports international ambitions and channel expansion. Expand your channel partners Retail Assist already works with 70 leading retail partners across the world, which can be seen in our infographic below. We have developed strong partnerships and interfaces to House of Fraser, John Lewis, El Cortes Ingles, Karstadt, Alshaya, Galeries Lafayette – and many more. Whether it’s a department store you are hoping to trade in, or a franchise partner to aid your brand presence, our Ra-X solution interfaces seamlessly. Trading with overseas franchises, affiliates or concessions can present problems such as those previously experienced by Cath Kidston’s IT Director, who said: “We have partners who all work in their own ways and have their own systems. Historically, top line data was sent to us in a spreadsheet or emails.” Removing inaccuracy, and boosting efficiency, our data exchange solution has proved itself to be an invaluable part of critical business operations. Supported as standard 24 x 7 It’s not just the data management software that makes the difference. The wraparound support model offered by Retail Assist’s data exchange is proactive, identifying critical trading issues before it impacts the day to day running of your business. For example, if one of your stores is not polling, or missing files have been identified in your sales data, Retail Assist flags up the issue, and can support the resolution of the problem. Retail Assist monitors the data management software service 24 × 7 with full back up and disaster recovery. Mint Velvet, Monsoon Accessorize, Cath Kidston, Karen Millen, and many more retail brands are using Retail Assist’s middleware solution Ra-X to meet their omnichannel requirements and support the expansion of their channel partners.…
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Global Help Desk
  • 29 Nov 2017
 Jigsaw chooses Retail Assist for global store support
Jigsaw goes live with Retail Assist’s Help Desk Jigsaw, the luxury British fashion retailer, is the latest brand to go live with Retail Assist’s IT Help Desk. Retail Assist provides first-line IT support for 95 Jigsaw stores, in the UK, Ireland, US and Australia. With 24 x 7 availability, Retail Assist is a single point of contact for all IT related issues 7 days a week, as an extension of Jigsaw’s internal IT team. Improved out of hours service provision is helping Jigsaw store staff to provide a better experience to customers with increased systems uptime. Thanks to their expertise in the retail sector and strong technical knowledge, Retail Assist completed a full Help Desk service transition in just 9 weeks, ahead of the brand’s peak trading period as specified in the project brief. “Previously, it was a challenge to cover evenings and weekends efficiently and cost-effectively using our own team, as well as our overseas locations, so we looked at options for better scalability as we grow”, explains Paul Owers, IT Director at Jigsaw. “With the benefit of extended first line support from Retail Assist to take care of store IT around the clock, our internal team no longer needs to be ‘on call’ out of hours, and has improved their availability for business-as-usual duties. Retail Assist also has expert knowledge of the retail systems used by Jigsaw, which gave us confidence in their capabilities to support our global store estate.” Dan Smith, CEO of Retail Assist, commented on the new relationship. “We’re delighted to partner with Jigsaw as they lead the way in first-class omnichannel customer experience. Our optimised cost model for managed services is a compelling factor for retailers when they consider their IT support requirements.”       Want to know more about our Managed Services? Send an enquiry here.…
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Black Friday 2017 online
  • 27 Nov 2017
Black Friday 2017: the verdict
Black Friday 2017 stats The squeeze on consumer spending power and the spread of discounting over a longer period may have made Black Friday 2017 a harder sell. We round up the statistics following the official Black Friday weekend to find out if the consumer appetite is starting to fall. Black Friday 2017: The stats are in Online has dominated Black Friday sales this year, as predicted in our Black Friday research. Overall spending is up on last year, despite a fall in the number of shoppers visiting stores. Early on Friday, a dip in web traffic and fewer shoppers on the high streets suggested that the appeal of Black Friday might finally be in decline. Despite this, momentum built throughout the day, with Barclaycard estimating that Black Friday spending was 8% higher than last year, before the official results are in from the ONS. Black Friday vs Cyber Monday Online transactions in the week before Black Friday were up 11.3% as retailers launched their sales early. This trend may have accounted for the dilution of high street figures. On Black Friday itself, John Lewis said that it had seen its biggest ever hour of online trading, with 705 units purchased per minute on average between 9am and 10am. “iPad” was their number one search term recorded, suggesting that technology is still a preferred product for Black Friday deal-searchers. Cyber Monday, taking place today, is in full swing, with retailers promising to continue Black Friday discounts until close of play. Black Friday on the high street While ecommerce continues to grow, this year significantly less shoppers hit the high streets to take advantage of Black Friday deals, continuing a longer-term shift in shopping habits.  The best clip to sum up Black Friday 2017 on the high street? Perhaps the the following video live from Oxford Street. At 8am, with national media gathering to capture the doors opening at Currys PC World, one lone shopper made the headlines instead of the usual frenzied crowds.   And the doors are open…. the rush came and went (quickly) #BlackFriday @BBCLondonNews @BBC_HaveYourSay pic.twitter.com/jkUjFnhwMo — Frankie McCamley (@Frankie_Mack) November 24, 2017 Unfortunately, it’s a sign of the times. High street footfall was down 4.2%, whilst retail parks and shopping centres also experienced a 3.6% decline in footfall. The statistics, compiled by Springboard, were significantly worse than an expected decline of 0.6%. What can we expect next year? Has Black Friday finally moved from an “event in its own right” to playing a part within wider Christmas promotions? We have definitely experienced a shift over the last couple of years to longer Black Friday sale periods. Not only does this reduce increased pressure on retailers to perform on one day only, but also reduces the possibility of websites crashing and long queues in store – one of the biggest “put off” factors for consumers. Although many analysts have begun to call time on Black Friday, and given that more consumers themselves planned to avoid Black Friday,…
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  • 20 Nov 2017
Warehouse Management System: Efficiency Made Easy
As omnichannel customer demand continues to put unrelenting pressure on retailers, the need to look for ever-smarter modes and methods of working practices also increases. Retailers looking to remain competitive search for ways to operate faster, more efficiently and at lower costs. For those dealing with multiple warehouses and large amounts of stock, a Warehouse Management System (WMS) is a vital tool. Watch the video here. What is a Warehouse Management System? In any business which deals with a warehouse or distribution centre, accuracy and efficiency are pivotal to maintaining good customer service. To assist with this a Warehouse Management System (WMS) takes the form of an individual software application, or can come as part of an Enterprise Planning System or ERP, designed to support the many aspects of management that are needed. Stock levels, staffing, planning and stock movements all form part of the everyday operations that can be controlled. Different levels of complexity are involved, and services can be tailor-made to cater for exactly what level of management is needed, with everything from voice recognition to tracking technologies possible. What can a Warehouse Management System do? Usually of the most interest to a business in regards to a WMS are the Stock Keeping Units (SKUs) which store all aspects of data specific to the product. Elements such as the weight, size, barcodes, labels, dates and materials involved are all stored and can hence be easily monitored and data accessed. The locations of products within the warehouse can also be controlled, alongside the form of storage, the picking orders for items, as well as options such as secure locations for high-value items, and whether specific conditions are needed such as flame-proofing. Picking schedules can be created and shared between multiple site locations. A major aspect of a WMS is also its use in monitoring and assessing employee productivity rates such as the amount of items picked within a specific timeframe. Tasks can be assigned and their progress observed, and modifications to plans that may be rendered necessary by fluctuating product or order sizes can easily be managed and adapted to. How can a Warehouse Management System help a business be more cost efficient? Due to the way in which a WMS manages data, the most obvious way in which a business will see a financial benefit from its implementation is via inventory accuracy. Eliminating the huge variable that human error brings to monitoring of stock and replacing it with a WMS will bring accuracy levels up, resulting in less unwanted stock being ordered, greater throughput, and less wastage caused. As a business will always be looking for near perfect stock accuracy in order to minimise unnecessary expenditure, a WMS is a massive advantage. Order cycles can be improved in a similar manner. The ability to see warehouse stock in real-time is another big benefit, as dynamic business decisions can be made with the most up to date information. A Supplier Management System (SMS) can also be integrated and will…
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UK IT Industry Awards
  • 16 Nov 2017
Retail Assist Wins ‘Services Company of the Year’ at the BCS UK IT Industry Awards!
Retail Assist: ‘Services Company of the Year’ 2017 We are delighted to announce that Retail Assist has won the award for ‘Services Company of the Year’ in the category of Organisational Excellence at the BCS UK IT Industry Awards 2017. The BCS UK IT Industry Awards are a platform for the entire profession to celebrate best practice, innovation and excellence. L-R: Rhianne Poole, Marketing Executive; Jane Gibbons, Account Manager; Rob Beckett, Host. The star-studded Awards Evening was held at Battersea Events Arena in London, where Retail Assist received the Winner’s Award on stage in front of thousands of guests. Retail Assist was recognised specifically for their strong, longstanding customer relationships, as well as the exceptional quality of their Managed IT Services offering.  Retail Assist was shortlisted for the award by the Chartered Institute for IT (BCS) and Computing, in August 2017 alongside nine other businesses in the IT services and solutions industry.  Dan Smith, CEO of Retail Assist, commented: “We are extremely proud to have our excellent achievements recognised at the prestigious UK IT Industry Awards. Our team work above and beyond to deliver great IT services and solutions to our clients all over the world. This award provides great recognition for the entire team at Retail Assist and we are delighted to be named Services Company of the Year”. Paul Fletcher, Group Chief Executive Officer of BCS, The Chartered Institute for IT said: “Congratulations to all the winners and those who were highly commended in the UK IT Industry 2017 Awards. They perfectly demonstrate how the UK can and does make the most of its talent, recognising the highest levels of excellence across today’s IT sector. The standard of applications we received this year was outstanding, showcasing some of the brightest and best in our industry. The winners stood out as exceptional and inspiring, and should be very proud of their success.” Stuart Sumner, Editor of Computing, added: “Very well done to the winners and those who were highly commended on their achievements. The UK IT Industry Awards are rigorously judged and truly celebrate innovation and professionalism in IT today. To emerge as a winner or runner up is a major accomplishment.” Retail Assist’s latest 2017 award comes after being awarded ‘Best Managed Service Desk’ by the Service Desk Institute in 2016.…
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  • 13 Nov 2017
Guest Blog: Marketing Officer Placement
Life as Retail Assist’s Marketing Officer Meet Benedict, our Marketing Officer, who has been with us at Retail Assist since July. Benedict is an economics undergraduate from Nottingham Trent University undertaking a yearlong placement with the company. I was ecstatic to be chosen for this placement, but it was a scary jump at the same time. My knowledge base was economics, and I lacked any knowledge in marketing, but I was keen to broaden my horizons. To my relief, Retail Assist was a breath of fresh air after 2 years of study, especially since my creative side was feeling undernourished. Day to day I’ve really enjoyed overseeing the company’s social media, through managing it, I’ve seen how the B2B side of social media works, something that I wouldn’t have learned without being in the industry. I’m grateful to be respected and trusted to represent one of the faces of the company; allowing me to put on my creative hat every week and come up with new angles and messages to talk about our products and services has been useful. It also means that attention to detail is one of the key skills I have developed. The other half of my job, research, surprised me in how much I enjoyed it. Market research has been great for building my industry knowledge; reading about retail technology, the movements in the market, and searching for good prospect companies. All this has taught me that I’m really interested in what keeps retail ticking and moving forward, as it’s an extremely fast paced industry. Life at Retail Assist The team I work with are very professional, it’s been great learning from them all; even if I’m not involved with everything they are doing, I’ve been exposed to the entire sales and marketing process from end to end. As a placement student, my team understand that I’m still learning, all remembering when they were in a similar position to myself which has made me feel welcome. Enjoying drinks at Hockley Arts Club with the team The Retail Assist working environment is so vibrant, the open plan office encourages me to work closely with my colleagues, who are all really sociable and good to chat with. Even when I’ve got work to do, it’s always good to be up to date on Love Island… The social side also continues after work, everyone is up for going out for the occasional team drink. Getting a placement in Nottingham city centre worked out perfectly for me, I’m able to remain involved in university life which I understand is a luxury, as many other placement students end up in different cities. This meant that I didn’t have to give up being the president of the uni climbing club, I got to live with my friends in a cheap city centre flat, and of course I was still able to make it to the occasional Ocean social. Despite the occasional stress on a few deadlines (marketing really means you have to…
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store of the future
  • 6 Nov 2017
Investing in the store of the future
Store retail strategy “The high street is dead”, “the department store is dead”. We’re hearing it over and over, and yet stores still form the cornerstone of brand experience, for the majority of successful omnichannel retailers. There’s still a strong customer demand for store experiences – over 70% of all retail purchases touch a store at some point in the journey. The 21st century store: John Lewis Industry stalwart John Lewis unveiled its newest store last week at Oxford Westgate. It’s the 49th in the John Lewis portfolio, an anchor store of the future, and its most experience and service-led to date. Being dubbed the “Store of the 21st Century” by Drapers, the new store centres on providing exceptional experience and service, in order to engage and retain loyal customers. There are five “dwell” spaces throughout the store, to host “customer experience events” for John Lewis shoppers. These range from traditional personal styling sessions, to modern yoga classes capitalising on the athleisure trend. The new “Experience Desk” is perhaps the culmination of this thinking, where shoppers can buy-in to experiences at a concierge style service, to help the customer arrange and organise their day around their product needs. One thing is for sure – John Lewis’ store experience is attempting to give the customer exactly what they want from the brand. Fulfilling the customer promise “Never knowingly undersold” is perhaps the most famous brand promise in British retailing. John Lewis operates under banners of quality and customer reassurance. One of the biggest bugbears for customers is the non-fulfilment of the customer promise. If you promise that an item is in stock, for example, can you ensure that it reaches the customer? This relies on multiple elements – is your stock view in real-time? Is it a central, single view, or do you have ring-fenced stock? Opening up your inventory with a single, centralised view is the best way to ensure you can fulfil the customer promise with accurate stock information. Consumers are also more demanding: if they need a product “now”, they’ll be put off by out-of-stock notifications, or “wait 2-3 weeks for delivery”. Are you using surplus store stock to fulfil online orders? Ship from store can make you more likely to be able to fulfil more orders, whilst also increasing full price sell through. What will the store of the future look like? What we don’t believe is that the store of the future should become a glorified click-and-collect desk. The store is still the manifestation of your brand in its physical products. So, how to get it right? Make sure they are in the right place, at the right time, in the correct quantities, and sold by store associates with the best levels of product information is key. John Lewis might have based its new store around experiences as well as its products, but their value lies in the encouragement of brand loyalty, bigger baskets, and future purchases.…
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