IT services and solutions for retail and hospitality

A Day in the life of Receptionist / HR Administrator Alaine Martyn

  • 24 Dec 2010
A Day in the life of Receptionist / HR Administrator Alaine Martyn
Ellie: For my next ‘Day in the life of’ interview, I’m about to speak to one of my good friends at Retail Assist, Alaine Martyn. Alaine, you started at the company before me, so I’m not sure exactly how long you’ve worked here – how long has it been now? Alaine: I’ve been here for 4 years and 2 months exactly. Ellie: Could you describe a typical day at work for you please? Alaine: Much of a typical day for me would be spent answering and making calls – along with reception duties I also carry out general admin tasks. In particular, I have a responsibility for HR, and act as a PA to the Directors as and when required. Ellie: To me, you come across as very bubbly and confident, which I think is important for your line of work. What previous experiences helped you prepare for your role? Alaine: That’s always nice to hear. Previously I worked for a security company and looked after 50 security guards, where there was always a query to be answered! I think that gave me confidence in working closely with people. Ellie: So what do you enjoy most about your job here? Alaine: I think that would have to be the people I work with – I’ve got to know some really nice people here. Ellie: That’s good – hopefully I’m one of those people, so I’ll take that as a compliment! On the flip side, what aspects of your role do you find most challenging? Alaine: My role can be quite pressured and demanding and I’m expected to meet tight deadlines. At times it would be helpful to be able to turn my 2 arms into 8! Ellie: So being an octopus would be useful? Alaine: Exactly! Well that concludes my usual ‘Day in the life of’ questions, but as it’s Christmas Eve, I’d also like to ask you what your festive wish would be a) for Retail Assist and b) for yourself? Alaine: I hope that all goes well for Retail Assist in the New Year and that we keep growing and expanding. More awards for the company would be good please. Ellie: We’ll do our best in the Marketing Department to enter some more awards next year! Alaine: For me, I just hope that all my plans for 2011 work out well. I’d like to do lots of socializing and seeing friends and hopefully meet a nice man for cuddles on these cold winter nights! Ellie: Haha I’m sure the offers will come flooding in after this interview! Thanks for that Alaine – Merry Christmas to you and everybody reading this. The next ‘Day in the life of’ feature will be published next year.…
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  • 20 Dec 2010
Odin Retail prepares for UK expansion with an IT overhaul from Retail Assist
Odin Retail, the UK and Eire Master Franchise Partner of the iconic Swedish childrenswear brand Polarn O. Pyret (PO.P) has extended its existing relationship with Retail Assist and invested in an overhaul of its IT infrastructure. The partnership between Odin Retail and Retail Assist dates back four years, to when the retailer first launched in House of Fraser concessions in the UK. Odin Retail approached Retail Assist to design and support a number of data interfaces between its Swedish parent company, and the UK department store. Today, in addition to House of Fraser concessions, Odin Retail also boasts a number of solus stores. The recent IT project was driven by Managing Director Mats Nilsson, to support further growth over the next few years. With over 120 stores, the unique kidswear brand dominates its home market. Comments Nilsson: “IT is a major facilitator for Odin Retail’s continued UK expansion, however it cannot be my main concern when growing the business. Working with a trusted provider such as Retail Assist means that I can focus on the areas within the organisation that I need to, confident in the knowledge that I have Retail Assist focusing on my technical infrastructure.” Retail Assist managed the rollout and implementation of Triquestra’s Infinity EPoS software, and will be providing a specialist Retail Service Desk to support this solution. First and second line cover will be provided 7 days a week between 8am until 8pm Monday to Saturday, and 8am until 6pm on Sundays. Retail Assist will also be providing technical support 7 days a week between the hours of 9am and 5.30pm and Data Hosting and Operational Support 24/365. Hardware Maintenance services will be managed by Retail Assist and partner Vista Retail. Ian O’Rorke, Managing Director at Triquestra UK, comments: “I’m very proud that Odin Retail chose Infinity as its preferred EPoS solution, as this builds upon our extensive experience of working with international childrenswear retailers such as Pumpkin Patch.” Concludes Gary Broughton, Retail Assist’s Professional Services Director: “We’re delighted to be providing Odin Retail with additional support. It’s a unique brand, and I believe there is a real gap in the market at the moment for good value, high quality clothing for babies and children. Retail Assist is the ideal partner for any international retailers who are considering entering or expanding in the UK market, as we’ve got the knowledge, expertise, and experience to support them going forward.”…
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  • 17 Dec 2010
Cutting waste not corners: 5 top tips
In this new age of austerity, most retail IT departments have found that their budgets and headcounts have been trimmed. Being expected to do more, with less resource has led many retailers to consider outsourcing key projects.  Outsourcing gives them the benefit of people with IT skills for as long as they need them, but no longer. This sounds ideal in theory, but in practice, how can retailers be sure that they have found the right external partner? My top tips when looking for an IT Projects Services provider are: 1)      Check they have sufficient breath and depth of experience. An obvious one, but don’t let cost-cutting blind you to this. Take advantage of a Project Services provider who can provide project continuity across a “pool” of available resource and retain the knowledge of your business for future projects. 2)      Make sure their personnel have the relevant qualifications to back up this experience. PRINCE2 is a process-based approach that is the de-facto standard for project management in the UK. 3)      Ensure that they are specialists in your sector. The provider may have worked on numerous IT projects, but do they have retail experience? 4)      Familiarise yourself with the ethos of the company. For the project to be successful, you need to trust and respect the Project Managers who you will be working with. If the chemistry isn’t right, then maybe it’s best to look elsewhere. 5)      Ask if they can give you full project lifecycle support – this should include a single point of contact for consulting, planning, resourcing, management, delivery and reports. Anything else will lead to confusion later on.…
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  • 10 Dec 2010
Rockin’ Around Retail Assist
Whilst many people in offices all over the country are currently sitting back and commencing ‘holiday eating’ – mince pies are an acceptable breakfast at this time of year…aren’t they? – Or else slinking into work hoping nobody will mention their debauched behaviour at the annual Christmas party the night before; this has traditionally been an exceptionally busy time of year for Retail Assist, due to the company’s clients being based in the retail sector. The heightened volume of transactions that retailers have to fulfil in the run up to Christmas is hardly surprising.  The months of November and December make usually rational human beings attack the high street with a frenzy that wouldn’t seem out of place in battle. And although this blogger is writing from a seemingly detached viewpoint, I’ll admit that I’m not immune to present-buying hysteria – I found myself standing in the middle of a well-known fashion store during my lunch break the other day, having a minor panic attack over what to buy my teenage cousins. But imagine if after finally making that difficult gift decision, I had been unable to actually buy the item in question because the retailer’s tills had broken down, and the Sales Assistant hadn’t known what to do? Not only would my panic have reached fever pitch – I’d have had to dash back to the office and found a present another day – but the store would have lost an all-important sale.  That’s where Retail Assist’s Help Desk come in; they can be on hand to support store systems 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. They don’t stop working because Retail Assist’s clients don’t stop working, and the company’s job is to provide the best service possible, no matter what time of year it is. Retail Assist are also partaking in some gift giving, whilst raising money for charity, and having plenty of festive fun. *Cheeky plug alert* if you’d like to donate a prize to the company’s annual charity raffle, it’s for a great cause – to help raise as much money as possible for Help for Heroes. Contact for more information. Now, where did I put those mince pies?…
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  • 9 Dec 2010
Merret to be showcased at NRF’s 100th annual Convention and Expo
9th – 12th January 2010, Javits Convention Center, New York City From 9th to 12th January, the retail industry will come together for the National Retail Federation’s 100th annual Convention and Expo. Since 1911, retail executives searching for the most effective solutions, tools and technologies have made NRF’s Big Show their first port of call; and since 2009 they have been able to find Merret, Retail Assist’s integrated supply chain solution there. This year, Merret will be showcased on the Association for Retail Technology Standards (ARTs) Pavilion with SPI, Retail Assist’s North American implementation partner. Leading innovators such as IBM will also be exhibiting on the Pavilion. Merret was first launched into the US market two years ago as an end-to-end tool that covers all aspects of stock control, retail supply and business information. Today, SPI deliver the associated services including Business Analysis, Project Management, Development and Implementation, Training, Hosting and 24/365 Support. Comments SPI’s Jeff Meaux: “It’s been an exciting year for SPI and Merret. We’ve run a very successful US marketing campaign in conjunction with Retail Assist, which has generated some interesting opportunities. We look forward to developing these further in 2011.” “We always enjoy Retail’s Big Show” adds Retail Assist’s Managing Director, Alan Morris.“Last year 18,500 industry professionals attended, and this year’s anniversary exhibition should be bigger than ever. Retail Assist and SPI will be joining over 500 vendors, but we’re confident in Merret’s competitive advantage and appeal to the US market.”…
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  • 3 Dec 2010
The curious incident of the router in the daytime
When it comes to technology, there should be a logical explanation for why things stop working, but every now and then something can happen which puzzles even the most hardened IT professional. This is one of those cases, and the story of what recently happened to Helen Wright, one of Retail Assist’s Systems Analysts, when faced with a seemingly faulty router at one of our client’s stores in Stillorgan. Time to set the scene.  The tale began when one of our client’s stores kept facing issues with a router failing to poll data.  At night, the offending article would work perfectly well and transfer all the data it needed to, but during the day this was simply not the case. The Store Manager had wracked their brain as to why this could be happening and had turned to Helen in desperation. After calling upon an onsite electrician, who was also unable to explain the situation, Helen was stumped. Not being the type to give up, she pondered her options from Retail Assist’s Nottingham Head Office and decided the best thing to do would be to ask the Store Manager to replicate their nightly routine. Being an environmentally-minded type of person, the Store Manager informed Helen that the last thing they did before locking up of an evening was switch out the lights. This minute detail sparked a light bulb of it’s own… but this time in Helen’s brain! Against all odds, Helen managed to work out that it was a small halogen light bulb which was interfering with the store’s polling. At night, this was switched off, hence the lack of disturbance. However during the day, once the bulb was fully charged and working at full capacity, it would wreak havoc with the store’s data transfer. Once the problem was identified, it was very easy to solve, as all the Store Manager needed to do was to replace the light bulb with another… so our client and their router lived happily ever after – all thanks to Helen!…
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  • 26 Nov 2010
A Day in the Life of System Support Technician David Pollard
Ellie: As part of Retail Assist’s regular ‘Day in the life of’ feature, I’m about to interview System Support Technician David Pollard, who is based at our Data Centre in Northampton. Hi David, my first question as ever, is how long have you been at Retail Assist? David: I’ve worked at Retail Assist for 4 years now. Ellie: In 4 years I’m sure you’ve had lots of different experiences, but would you be able to describe a typical day at work here? David: For me a typical day can vary greatly, on a typical support day it will start by checking the unassigned technical services calls in Ambercat (our specialist call logging software). Those with a higher priority will be reviewed and resolved first, and then I will assign those that will require more attention to the support queue. For the rest of the day I will work on the calls that are in the support queue and monitor the unassigned calls queue for any new support calls. On non-support days I will typically assist with projects that other Systems Engineers are working on, and carrying out planned maintenance on a range of servers that we host at the Data Centre as well as at the Hub (Retail Assist’s Head Office). I will also be assigned resource work that people (internal and external) will have booked my time for – such as PC/Server Builds, software testing/implementation and other project work. In addition, I carry out a number of weekly/monthly tasks such as ensuring Anti Virus is up to date on all servers and clients, checking for inactive domain accounts, as well as assisting with desktop support at some of our client sites. Ellie: So what’s the best bit about your job then? David: I like the variety and the challenges each day can throw at you. I also find it quite rewarding when a fix I have implemented resolves a call. Ellie: What aspects of your role do you find most challenging? I know I may make your life difficult by logging a fair few Ambercat calls myself! David: Oh that’s just part of the job Ellie! There can be busy days where I am trying to resolve multiple calls simultaneously whilst keeping numerous people updated and fully informed of progress, those days can be particularly challenging. Obviously giving people answers that they really didn’t want to hear can be difficult. However, the most challenging aspect of the role for me is when there is a problem and I know the solution, but have to implement about 10 other solutions to get to the point where I can implement the solution that fixes the problem. On days like that the old rhyme about the old woman who swallowed the fly springs to mind. Ellie: For anybody who was thinking of applying for a job here, I think it would be useful for them to know what previous experiences helped prepare you for your role. How did you get into working…
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  • 22 Nov 2010
The ‘M’ Word
Lately, multichannel retail has been discussed in a way that suggests it’s a new phenomenon. E-commerce and M-commerce are certainly the latest additions to the mix, but the concept of multichannel existed long before the first online shopping basket or mobile app were twinkles in an excited developer’s eye. Customer loyalty is one of the biggest challenges in today’s retail market, so it stands to reason that the more opportunities you have to get customers engaged with your product, the bigger your advantage. Consumers are now bombarded with so many messages persuading them to buy that, if retailers don’t take this seriously, they’re giving up sales to the opposition. Integration is one of the main challenges to multichannel retailers in the battle for customer loyalty.  When a customer makes make contact with a retailer – either online, via a mobile application, catalogue, or in store; it’s important that they’re treated in the same way, so retailers should either fully invest in each new opportunity, or not enter that route to market. They must plan how multichannel is going to work for their business and how they’re going to spread their resources (e.g. their products, people, marketing and IT systems) across each channel. In terms of where multichannel is going, it’s pretty difficult to say. What’s important is that IT providers should always be looking at their product from a retailer’s perspective and understanding how the product underpins multichannel retailing. This is because, however it may develop over the coming months and years, multichannel is here to stay. Feel free to post your multichannel predictions for 2020 below……
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  • 15 Nov 2010
A Day in the Life of Marketing Manager Alex Ievins
  Ellie: As part of our ‘Day in the life of’ feature, I’m about to interview my boss, Marketing Manager Alex Ievins, to discuss what working in Marketing entails. Alex, you’ve been at Retail Assist for 6 months now – could you describe a typical day at work here? Alex: That’s a tough one as each day is different. Every Monday involves a meeting to review where we are at with regards to the marketing plan. A typical day tends to involve working on press releases, developing copy with the sales team, and any partners that may have been involved, plus liaising with clients for sign off.  We then work with our PR consultant to ensure we get effective distribution of the piece in key publications. We are currently in the process of re-developing our websites, and therefore every day involves monitoring any progress with our designers. This also means having relevant copy, images and photography in place, alongside newer marketing mediums such as podcasts and video content. Our social media strategy is key; we make daily updates to our corporate Twitter and Facebook accounts and weekly posts on our blog and LinkedIn page. At present we have a strong marketing campaign to introduce Merret to US retailers.  Therefore much of my time is spent managing this campaign, speaking to our partners SPI in the USA and Triquestra (an EPOS partner) in New Zealand. Whilst an important aspect of marketing is identifying new opportunities and lead generation, so is looking after our current client base, and gaining recognition for what we already do. Therefore arranging corporate hospitality events is of high importance.  We are continually working on award opportunities, entries, and developing case studies. Recently we have had a number of events, all of which require organising, inviting appropriate clients, getting together an internal team and co-ordination to ensure that everyone has a great time. Ellie: So what do you enjoy most about your job? You’ve certainly described a lot of different activities to choose from! Alex: The best aspect of my role is variety and the continually growing opportunity and changing environment for marketing, particularly in the IT services and retail sector.  There is always scope for new ideas, creativity, and trying things out particularly in the digital age.  Achieving our objectives is also another very satisfying aspect of the role, such as higher lead generation, gaining coverage in our key publications, setting up and running successful events.  Our industry and the role are very interesting, and also working with a great Business Development team. Whilst working hard I find that we have fun in the process, and therefore is a very enjoyable role. Ellie: And what aspects of your role do you find difficult? …Other than working with a difficult Marketing Coordinator that is! Alex: An aspect of the role which is challenging is finding new ways of getting our name our there, raising awareness and trying to ensure that we get in touch with the right people…
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  • 8 Nov 2010
6 Top Tips for getting the best out of a BI system
Most Business Intelligence platforms are difficult to use, technical and inflexible. As a result, they are often kept in the hands of a small number of power users and technicians rather than the wider business community. It doesn’t have to be this way though – my cardinal rules when looking for a new BI system are: Invest in a ‘retail-ready’ product which will get you up and running straightway Make sure that business users are involved in the tool selection as well as in defining requirements, and have continual input Look for flexibility. Your chosen system should be able to rapidly support changing business requirements Home in on tools that are fast and easy to use Select an integrated tool, not a mixture of modules from the same vendor which may cause integration issues down the line when the initial scope needs to be extended Make sure the system can support budgeting/planning/forecasting as well as performing historical analysis To enquire about our Merret supply chain solution with an integrated BI and CPM module, or to discuss your own experiences of choosing a BI system, please post your comments below.…
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