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IT services and solutions for retail and hospitality

Retail Reflections: “The biggest challenges for tech functions haven’t changed much in 40 years!” Retail Assist’s Chairman, Bill Joss, shares his insights

Bill Joss Q&A
  • 31 Dec

Retail Reflections: “The biggest challenges for tech functions haven’t changed much in 40 years!” Retail Assist’s Chairman, Bill Joss, shares his insights

Written by Anna Murphy, Communications Executive Janus, the Roman god of new beginnings, faced both forwards and backwards, and so had the ability to look into the past and the future. As we approach 2019 and all the new beginnings it will bring, we speak to Retail Assist’s Chairman, Bill Joss, to reflect on 40 years of working within the technology sector and to also look forward with his insights into retail and technology trends of the future. Bill, you have 40 years of experience within the technology industry. How have consumers evolved within this time? The main evolution in how the average retail consumer shops can be split into two segments. The first focuses on shopping behaviours as this now includes consumers with higher levels of computer literacy – something that would have been unheard of 25 years ago – joined with a higher ability to access and analyse information online; along with this change in how we operate is linked to increased expectations on the choice of items and sourcing via mobile technology. The second segment is comprised of the expectation of service; this includes the demand for fast responses to enquiries, the requirement for a smooth ordering process, immediate – if not free – delivery, plus an easy and fast returns and refund process. With all those changes in how consumers interact with the retail landscape, what do you perceive to be the biggest developments in retail technology so far? For me, the biggest developments in retail technology includes CRM-enabled omnichannel retail systems supported by faster IT solutions, with more accessible customer data and, increasingly, AI-powered analytics. Other important developments are unquestionably handheld apps and mobile technology payment systems. So, with 2019 soon upon us, let’s look forward. What changes in technology do you see making the greatest impact on the retail sector? Without a shadow of a doubt, the greatest impact has come from online, accessible websites, a social transition to handheld mobile technology and a growing deployment of AI. For retailers, the increasing proliferation of retail specific tools, such as a WSSI, stock management systems and PIM supporting online systems, will accelerate the switch from physical shop premises and ensure precision in a progressively challenging retail landscape. What predictions do you make on the future of technology? The immediate future is about increasingly intelligent self-learning systems and AI-enabled tools that collect customer data within CRM systems and facilitate individual or consumer-specific offers and promotions. What are the biggest challenges that the tech industry is facing right now? To be honest, the biggest challenges for technology functions haven’t changed much in 40 years! Broadly speaking, functional issues with application development and the delays associated with it can all slow progress and efficiency. However, with the growth in modern retailers’ omnichannel offerings meaning a demand on many data sources, the duplication of poorly qualified data can have a huge impact on retail businesses. What do you predict will be the tech mantra for 2019? It’s got to…
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Charity, Emmanuel House, Fundraising, Retail Assist
  • 24 Dec

Spreading a little joy this Christmas: Supporting Emmanuel House, Retail Assist’s Charity of the Year

Written by Anna Murphy, Communications Executive Every year, Retail Assist picks one charity to be our ‘Charity of the Year’. Whilst we have supported many different charities with many excellent causes, this year, we decided to support Emmanuel House: a Nottingham-based charity that supports homeless and vulnerable adults. Throughout the year, we have held a variety of fundraising events, from our Great British Bake Off cake sale to taking over 200 Degrees’ kitchen in their Carrington Store. So, for Christmas, we decided to end our year with a fundraising extravaganza! With our generous clients and partners donating gifts, members of staff from across all of our sites bought raffle tickets in the hope of winning a fantastic prize. With the draw taking place just before Christmas, a brilliant time was had by all as our CEO, Dan Smith, compèred the proceedings, raising over £875. So, cue drumroll…this year, with all of our fundraising events combined, the grand total raised for Emmanuel House is just over £1,250! A huge thank-you to all of our colleagues, customers and partners who have been involved in raising this impressive amount – it is very gratefully received. Just some of the amazing raffle prizes that were up for grabs! One More Gift Along with the fundraising raffle, staff at our Nottingham Head Office also brought in food donations to give to Emmanuel House. To top up the donations, the Marketing Team battled against the festive crowds to complete a festive supermarket haul! The team filled their trolley with essential items such as tinned tomatoes, non-biological washing powder, tea and stock cubes. Afterwards, they took all the donations to Emmanuel House’s support centre, meeting their Marketing Assistant, Gill. The Marketing Team with all the food donations A Warm Welcome Being met at the door by Emmanuel House’s service users, the team were greeted with smiles and offers of help, with people jumping up to help carry in the bags of food. Speaking about Emmanuel House’s provision, Gill said: “Whenever people turn up, they are guaranteed a warm welcome.” The service provision at Emmanuel House was certainly impressive. With a pool table, a large eating and seating area, and a bustling kitchen, the centre felt cosy and welcoming. Gill said: “Often homeless people have lost an entire support network of family, friends and colleagues. Because of this, isolation is one of the biggest issues that they face; we have a range of services, with choirs such as Streetwise Opera and the Opera Dudes, Art Group and the Women’s Group to encourage socialising and to build trust.” Eating times also provide a great way to chat and connect with others, and Emmanuel House’s Head Chef, Joe, cook a meals from scratch, using fresh ingredients – often for over 70 people at a time. Outside Emmanuel House’s Support Centre Gill explained: “December is our busiest period for donations as people’s thoughts turn to those less fortunate over the festive season. However, as our centre is open all year round…
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Retail Assist is Growing Up!
  • 17 Dec

We might be turning 20 soon, but we’re about to have a growth spurt

It’s certainly been a busy year here at Retail Assist. Having received private equity investment from Foresight Group in 2017 and with nine new clients having joined within the last 12 months, it’s never been a more exciting time to work within our company. However, following so many new clients on-boarding, we need additional resources to support our company’s significant growth. Fancy working in a fast-paced, exciting environment? Here are just a few of the many varied careers on offer within Retail Assist. Our team at the Nottingham Post Women In Business Awards this year! Digital Marketing Executive If you know your SEO from your PPC, then you could be the right person for this role. Working within a charismatic Marketing team, the Digital Marketing Executive drives all digital marketing activities, such as website content, ecampaigns, video production and optimising all content, along with managing external agencies. Alex Broxson, Head of Marketing, said: “Following rapid growth in client acquisition over the last 12 months, we are looking to expand on our digital growth, as our business success is expected to continue. “The field of marketing is ever progressing and we are looking for someone with drive, passion and with the energy to push our digital offering into the future. “If you want to be part of the digital revolution, then get in touch!” Bilingual Helpdesk Call Analyst Hello, bonjour, ciao! Our busy Help Desk operates 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, and also speaks 12 languages. The role of a Bilingual Helpdesk Call Analyst includes answering incoming emails and calls to provide technical support to our many varied clients, working with the leading names in retail and hospitality. Tina Hand, Head of Systems Support, said: “On Retail Assist’s Help Desk, we are a vibrant, energetic and enthusiastic team. “We are looking for people who have customer-focused experience, especially within the retail and hospitality sector. With our ‘can-do’ attitude, we want to hear from problem solvers who have the innate ability to investigate issues further to provide the best possible customer service.” Technical Consultant Systems, servers and software! A multi-faceted role, it requires a high level of multiple server platforms and their associated technologies. Kevin Greathead, Chief Services Officer, explained: “We have created a new opportunity to expand our Technical Consultancy team. The role entails helping our customers to identify new opportunities to deploy IT systems with the successful candidate responsible for designing new solutions, costing up opportunities, and helping to deliver the technical solution. “The required skill set is varied, if you think of all the systems used by our many clients, as this new role may touch on any given element. We also need to ensure that we are bringing new and usable technology to our customers, so the successful candidate will need the skill to learn quickly, have an inquisitive mind and also be an analytical thinker.” People and Progress Rae Hayward, Head of People, said: “Here at Retail Assist, people are our greatest asset. The…
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Best Food
  • 10 Dec

‘Effective and efficient’: How Retail Assist supports Best Food Logistics

Written by Anna Murphy, Communications Executive Director of IT for Best Food Logistics, Cindy Howarth-Stares, praised Retail Assist for their on-going support in the latest of our Customer Testimonial Series. Best Food Logistics, formerly Bidvest, partners with many household names in the food, drink and hospitality sector, such as KFC, Pizza Express, Pret a Manger, Pizza Hut, Zizzi’s, ASK Italian, TGI Fridays and Burger King. Cindy said: “We pride ourselves on fantastic customer service to our clients. We needed to find an IT support provider who mirrored that and provided the same level of service to their clients as we provide to ours. “With effective and efficient call resolution, we’re able to plan for the future.” Retail Assist provides Help Desk support, technical support, project management, asset management and desktop management for Best Food Logistics. Cindy continued: “I run a really lean team at Best Food Logistics, so having access to an experienced project management team who know our business and know our strategy is invaluable. “They act as an extension of the internal team.” Click here to watch the video on YouTube Retail Assist’s Managed Services team provide proactive support to both retail and hospitality customers. From working alongside an existing IT team to even becoming a customer’s entire IT department, we can underpin a customer’s entire business, whatever the level of support required. If you would like more information on the support we provide to Best Food Logistics, click here to request a case study, or email marketing@retail-assist.co.uk. Don’t forget to keep an eye out for the next video in our Customer Testimonial Series or, if you’d like to watch more of our videos, click here.…
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  • 3 Dec

“They care about our business as much as their own”

Retail Assist and Vue International join forces for an inter-vue Written by Anna Murphy, Communications Executive At Retail Assist, we keep our customer’s customer at the heart of everything we do. Ensuring that our clients – and their customers – receive the best levels of service is paramount and it is this belief that we have built our business foundations on. This month sees the launch of our Customer Testimonial Series, where we speak to our clients regarding our work together and the many ways in which we support them. Our first interview is with Roland Jones, Executive Director of Technical Services at Vue International. Retail Assist have supported Vue since 2009, when we took responsibility for the management of user support and technical service management in both Vue’s Head Office and across their entire cinema estate. Having experienced significant growth in the UK and internationally, Vue’s technological assets are critical to the service that they offer their customers; underpinning this structure with Retail Assist’s Help Desk support has seen a reduction in incident volumes and, in 2014, saw Vue International renew their contract for another five years. Roland said: “As a supplier, I find them (Retail Assist) an extension of my own organisation – and you don’t find that with every supplier. “I have always got the feeling – and continue to have – that they care about our business as much as their own.” Click here to watch the video on YouTube Retail Assist’s Help Desk provides a single point of contact 24 hours a day, 7 days a week for all business support calls covering facilities management and technology. If you would like more information on the support we provide to Vue International, click here to request a case study, or email marketing@retail-assist.co.uk. Don’t forget to keep an eye out for the next video in our Customer Testimonial Series or, if you’d like to watch more of our videos, click here.…
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Black Friday 2018
  • 30 Nov

Top Ten Black Friday Stats 2018

Written by Andréa Williams, Marketing Officer Black Friday, once a day of discounts prior to Christmas, is now an almost two-week long spending phenomenon including blanket discounts, price matching and squashed margins. But with a loom of economic uncertainty round the corner, did this stop Brits from splashing the cash? We’ve picked out ten stats to round up 2018’s Black Friday. 1. Online sales soar We knew online sales would dominate Black Friday sales based on previous research, however Springboard reported that online sales had reached a 46% YoY increase by just 4pm. This is a reflection of not only larger discounts being offered online, but convenience. Why battle through the crowded streets in your half hour lunch break, when you can make your purchases from the comfort and warmth of your office chair? 2. Cheaper treats Barclaycard reported transactions were up 10% YoY by 3pm on Black Friday, despite spending value being down 12%, suggesting that consumers are spending less but buying more. It is likely that this figure comes from shoppers buying small treats for themselves, but perhaps also includes those that hadn’t planned to make a purchase, but who had been lured in by offers. 3. Internet browsers Online browsing remains strong with 1.2 billion website visits from 19th to the 25th of November, only a 1% decrease from last year: 194 million of these visits were on Black Friday alone. These figures show how consumers are browsing deals online before committing, something we’ve referred to as the research revolution. 4. The search continues As suggested in our annual Black Friday survey, consumers are making more informed decisions and Google stated that Black Friday searches have increased 80% over the last two years. With retailers disclosing deals over a week in advance, shoppers have the time to sit back and decide what they want to get out of the Black Friday sales, rather than purchasing on impulse. 5. Clued-up shoppers Google also identified how, earlier in November, non-branded searches are more frequent, but as Black Friday dawns, users become more informed and therefore specific about their options as they start to identify the best deals and savings. Branded (blue) vs Non-Branded (green) searches, Think With Google. 6. Amazon hold their own Amazon held a 26% share of the Black Friday market, a 3% increase from last year. Amazon claimed that this Black Friday was their busiest day of the year so far, which is an achievement when comparing Black Friday to the massive price slashes of Amazon’s very own discount day, PrimeDay. 7. Food before tech As expected, electronics sold well. However, this year the biggest growth in terms of web traffic was in the grocery sector, with a 12% YoY increase. Unfortunately, we didn’t see a blanket deal offering 40% off the weekly food shop, but British supermarkets did engage with Black Friday this year, slashing the prices of spirits. 8. Leaders without the loss Typically, British fashion retailers offered products discounted between 20 and 30…
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Nelson Blackley
  • 26 Nov

‘Clicks to bricks’: an unexpected retail phenomenon

Guest blog by Nelson Blackley, Retail Research Associate at Nottingham Business School, Nottingham Trent University What is ‘clicks to bricks’? Five years ago, some retail commentators were predicting that, by 2020, the unstoppable rise of online shopping would have completely taken over retail and driven ‘bricks-and-mortar’ stores to extinction. However, the Office for National Statistics claims that online sales currently accounts for around 18% of the total UK retail market and, whilst it is highly likely that this will continue to grow, it’s clear that the promised online ‘takeover’ of retail is unlikely to happen any time soon. An unexpected trend has emerged over the past few years, with online retailers and brands now moving ‘offline’ and opening stores, the so-called ‘clicks to bricks’ phenomenon. Even Amazon, the global online behemoth, now operates over 600 physical retail venues of various kinds around the world, including Amazon Go and through its acquisition last year of the Whole Foods chain. Which online retailers are moving into bricks-and-mortar? It’s an increasingly long list but amongst UK-based retailers these now include: Loaf was established in 2008 as an online retailer of beds, sofas and accessories, and now has seven showroom stores ‘helping consumers to relax and chill out with products showcased in realistic settings’ in locations including Solihull, Guilford and St. Albans. Missguided, the own brand womenswear retailer, also began purely online, gathering a huge social media presence amongst its target group of 16-34 year olds. They now have two stores in shopping centres in East London and Kent, designed to be ‘a deconstructed version of the Missguided website’, as well as concessions in Selfridges stores in Birmingham and Manchester. Joe Browns, an online and mail order fashion retailer, has also moved into physical retail, opening its first store opened in Sheffield Meadowhall last November. Their team are looking to create ‘an impressive three-dimensional version of our catalogue’ and a store which ‘crystallises their brand in a physical space perfectly’. But why now? With extensive consumer databases accessible through their catalogue and/or online operations, and integrated data processing systems, retailers moving from ‘clicks to bricks’ have in-depth and personal understanding of the changing demands and behaviours of their consumers, and so can ensure decisions are customer focused and market driven. ‘Clicks to bricks’ retailers also appear to have a clear view of the role stores play within their channel ‘mix’ and so are using their newly acquired physical space strategically to complement, rather than compete, with their online operations. Online retailers also recognise that a physical presence offers the consumer different benefits and can be used to reinforce a consistent brand image, as well as broaden the appeal of their brand. Stores have the potential to engage the customer’s five senses and so demonstrate how the brand looks, sounds, smells, feels and even tastes. Finally, fulfilling customer orders is one of the biggest outgoing costs for online retailers and so the move from ‘clicks to bricks’ can provide a more efficient way of getting…
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Retail Assist Emmanuel House
  • 21 Nov

This year, give hope: why our charity of the year, Emmanuel House, needs your support

Written by Anna Murphy, Communications Executive A warm bed, a hot bath, and a steaming cup of a tea are all things that help us get through the harsh, freezing winter months. But, instead of this, what if your priorities involved finding bedding, food or even a safe place to sleep? Emmanuel House is Retail Assist’s charity of the year and today, we attended the launch of their Winter Appeal. Whilst homelessness is a year-round issue, the focus of their Winter Appeal is to work with beneficiaries to help find a home of their own – something that many of us take for granted. Speaking at the launch, Denis Tully, Emmanuel House’s Chief Executive Officer, said: ‘Ultimately, our ambition is to ensure that people recover from homelessness, forever.” Emmanuel House’s services, and the Winter Shelter they co-ordinate, are an integral part of the plan to reduce homelessness in Nottingham city. In 2017-2018, over 900 individuals used the service, amounting to over 17,000 visits to the centre. The services they provide are varied, with the provision offered covering everything from advice and advocacy around tenancies, benefits, mental health support, training and workshops, drug and alcohol support, and a daily nurse, to a core programme of social activities including art projects and a choir. They also have an on-site charity shop, which brings in much-needed income and is also a place for service users to gain all-important work experience. With the support centre costing £1,000 a day to run, plus extra funding needed to finance the Winter Shelter, and no statutory funding received, donations are vital to provide support and services to the centre’s users. However, whilst monetary donations are crucial to keeping the centre running, contributions of food and clothing also make a significant difference to the work of Emmanuel House. Their ‘most-needed items’ include tinned tomatoes, cooking oil, stock cubes, tea, coffee and gravy powder, with other essentials listed such as rucksacks, trainers, sleeping bags, jeans and jogging bottoms. This December, Retail Assist will hold its annual Christmas raffle, which takes place across all of our sites. With an office fuddle, fundraising activities and a Christmas Jumper Day, all proceeds raised will go to Emmanuel House. Many of us will be looking forward to a joyful Christmas, filled with loved ones, parties and presents. However, perhaps this winter, you might want to consider supporting vulnerable adults and the challenges they face. Because, as Denis summarises: ‘Without hope, we wither.’ Emmanuel House is Retail Assist’s charity of the year. You can read more about some of our fundraising efforts here and here, and for more information regarding how you could support Emmanuel House, visit their website here.  …
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10 Jobs Retail Assist
  • 20 Nov

Top Ten! Retail Assist Needs You

Ten new jobs are up for grabs at our award-winning IT company Here at Retail Assist, we are excited to announce that we have ten new job vacancies available at our Nottingham Head Office. Following a period of significant growth, we are looking to hire people with previous retail and hospitality experience. Our company delivers support to some of the biggest names in retail and hospitality, including ASOS, Harvey Nichols, Ted Baker, Mint Velvet, Pizza Hut Restaurants, Vue Cinemas, and many more. Head of People, Rae Hayward, said: “It’s been an amazing year and now we have some fantastic opportunities. We have roles for ten new call analysts to join our award-winning Help Desk, which creates opportunities in the IT sector for those with retail store experience. It’s a brilliant opening for people wanting to expand their careers.” She continued: “At Retail Assist, helping our customer’s customer is at the heart of everything we do. We want to hear from people who understand great customer service and who are committed to delivering it.” Having won accolades such as ‘Services Company of the Year 2017’ at the UK IT Industry Awards and ‘Best Managed Service Desk 2016’ at the Service Desk Institute’s (SDI) Annual IT Service and Support Awards, two Retail Assist colleagues were also finalists for the Nottingham Post Women in Business Awards 2018. Alex Broxson, Head of Marketing, was a finalist for the Digital Ambassador award, and Chantice Sullivan was a finalist for the Apprentice of the Year award. Rae said: “The culture at Retail Assist is exciting, fast-paced and inclusive. As well as numerous award wins, we boast an impressive customer base and a vibrant team atmosphere. “This year, we have also introduced a new structure for pay progression plans and a Training and Development Manager to really bring our training to life. We want to invest in our colleagues and to open the door for fulfilling careers within the company.” In 2017, Retail Assist received multi-million pound private equity backing. Since then, we have expanded our internal structure and invested in our teams in order to drive focus and growth with its famous high street customers. As well as our open plan 5th and 6th floor Head Office overlooking Nottingham’s skyline, we also have offices based in Central London, Northampton and Oxford. If you want to work for a fast moving company who support global leading edge technologies in retail and hospitality, and who provide opportunities to learn, grow and progress please get in touch via careers@retail-assist.co.uk or visit our careers page here.…
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Inventory Management
  • 19 Nov

Stock Right Now! Why inventory management is vital for retailers

Written by Anna Murphy, Communications Executive Maintaining an accurate and successful supply chain is critical to any retail operation, and inventory management is a big part of the success. Ensuring that sufficient stock is ordered – and that the right items are in stock and the products on sale are correct – is all part of a successful retail business. Why is inventory management important? Having the correct items, in the right places, at the best prices possible, can be the difference between a functioning retail business and a flourishing one. Those who get inventory management right give themselves a natural advantage over their rivals. If stock is not in sufficient supply, customers will soon look elsewhere; excess stock leads to wastage, with retailers feeling a need for clearance sales and costly storage solutions. While purchasing stock plays a large part in inventory management, many other factors must be considered. How much can be stored? What are the transportation costs? How can potential shortages can be handled? Getting things wrong can very quickly lead to a loss of any customer loyalty that has been carefully built up, as well as potentially souring any profitable relationships with suppliers or distributers. What can be done to help with inventory management? There are ways of simplifying inventory management, rendering it as easy as possible. Retail Assist offers various solutions, which include the following: Stock Management Software Taking advantage of recent advances in mobile technology, stock management software can allow employees to access stock inventories at various locations, at convenient times. As offline in-store inventories are possible, which later connect and synchronise when connections are available, inventory processes can be undertaken on shop floors, in store rooms or wherever stock may be. The need for expensive, static hardware is removed and replaced with functional and easy to use tools that are easy to integrate into existing retail environments, and can be swiftly adapted to by staff members. Click here to watch the video on YouTube Purchase Order Management Systems Ensuring that any purchase orders are made in a centralised and visible way is important and using a Purchase Order Management System ensures that this occurs. Financial commitment information is readily available, as is clear information as to an order’s status, no matter where in the world it may be occurring. All stages of the process can be looked at, which purchase orders have been approved, which have not and which have been sent. Budgets and workflow levels can be set, with transparent audit trails ensuring that awareness is always clear. There are many other elements that aid inventory management, ranging from the ability to accept multi-drop purchase orders to automatic calculations of freight and duty that may be incurred. Warehouse Management Systems For retailers who deal with warehouses of significant size, organising those spaces and making sure they run well is a very important component of inventory management. Stock Keeping Units (SKUs) are contained within a Warehouse Management System (WMS) and can monitor many…
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