IT services and solutions for retail and hospitality


Common Supply Chain Issues and How to Avoid Them
  • 20 Jan 2020
Chain Reaction: Common Supply Chain Issues and How to Avoid Them
Written by Anna Murphy, Communications Lead January. Whether you see it as a dull, grey, long month (why does it feel like there’s 5,847 days?) and you can’t wait for it to be over or whether perhaps you take the more optimistic view and regard it as the exciting start to a promising new year, there’s one thing that binds everyone. If December is about looking back and reflection, January is for looking forward. As a retailer, it’s always imperative to look forward, too, and what better time to move processes forward is there than January? Keeping operations moving quickly and smoothly has never been more important. Here’s our list of the top 3 supply chain issues, and what can be done to avoid them. 1. Forecasting and data Let’s get back to basics: the most obvious issue that a supply chain can face is a lack of supplies! Modern consumers lack patience when it comes to finding products and if they can’t find it via one of your channels, you can bet that they’ll begin searching for it elsewhere. The key is to be able to accurately forecast demand and recognise the trends and dynamics that lie behind shifts in demand. The best way to do this? Data. Collating, analysing and using the information that can be acquired from customer activity, insights can be gathered into behaviour and trends forecasted. Using an omnichannel supply chain solution such as Merret Pro offers real time data, so that it’s easy for merchandising teams to see what’s selling well and where, so that decisions can be made to either replenish or to send more stock to a certain area or store. A WSSI is another useful tool for in-season planning, enabling future stock levels to be calculated in comparison to targets 2. Managing demand Success – you’ve created an amazing product and now everyone who shops in your Oxford Street store wants one. However, whilst it’s selling fairly well in other stores, it doesn’t seem to be doing as well in Sheffield or Bristol. Items must be in the correct place, at the correct time, in order to maximise profitability; having something in stock but in a location where it is not needed is always a problem. By moving stock to around to where it’s needed can mean a lowering of costs alongside an improvement in profit margins and, of course, a rise in customer satisfaction. Critical to ensuring that demand is met by managing distribution is an allocation and replenishment system that ties into a warehouse management system in order to fulfil stock based on order volumes or sales: by utilising these two aspects together, the process is well-functioning, efficient and can recognise where items need to be located and when. By using your stores as distribution hubs, stock can be moved not only from your warehouse but also items that have already made it to the shop floor 3. Lack of information It doesn’t matter who you are or where…
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How Digital Technology Has Shifted Retail Experiences
  • 13 Jan 2020
Tech-ing On the Future: How Digital Technology Has Shifted Retail Experiences
Written by Anna Murphy, Communications Lead What comes first? No, we’re not talking about a chicken here. Instead, which comes first in this instance: does a good retailer follow the shifting demands of a customer or, instead, lead them to develop new expectations? Whether you think in-store retail experiences have been altered by forward-thinking retailers, leading their competitors to play ‘catch-up’, or whether you believe it’s more driven by consumer wants and needs, at the centre of every side of the argument lies one thing: digital technology. NRF 2020: Retail’s Big Show takes place in New York City today and tomorrow; with the angle of ‘2020 Vision’, the show promises to showcase the technology that retailers can adopt to have a ‘visionary’ digital strategy of the future. But the future doesn’t need to be a far away concept: so what can retailers do to future-proof their store estates now in order to provide a positive customer experience? The obvious place to start: online sales The headlines reporting online sales are certainly nothing new and although the media depiction of the “war” between online sales against the high street is obsessively tracked, there’s not been a substantial change for some time. In fact, the latest report from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) shows that online retail sales (as a proportion of all retailing) stands at 18.7%, with online sales accounting for 18.2% of sales from clothing, textile and footwear stores. So, why shop online? Whilst there are certainly many benefits of trying on clothing in-store and walking away with your new purchase within minutes, not everyone has access to the stores they want to shop at on their local high street and consumers increasingly have access to quicker, more convenient technology that allows for speedy delivery, all from the comfort of – well, from wherever and whenever you want to shop! Its importance within our society cannot be underestimated. But it’s not just how we work or shop or even socialise that technology has had an impact on; it’s also encouraged customer expectations to evolve and now retailers must swiftly react. Wider product exposure As technology has made it easier for a customer to browse through multiple items and styles, via many different channels, so have retailers had to embrace technology to provide the wide range of products to satisfy this. Getting as many items seen as possible has become vital for modern retailers to survive; if a customer can’t see what they want in a retailer’s selection, they will quickly find it elsewhere. The 2017 World Economic Forum (WEF) insight report ‘Shaping the Future of Retail for Consumer Industries’ states that retailers need to “build a greater understanding of and a stronger connection to increasingly empowered consumers”, later adding “the traditional measures of cost, choice and convenience are still relevant, but now control and experience are also important”. Putting the power of choice into the hands of the consumer can also be harnessed by store staff utilising technology such…
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Mint Velvet Customer Testimonial
  • 6 Jan 2020
“We’ve Had Retail Assist with Us All the Way”: How Retail Assist has underpinned the growth of Mint Velvet
Written by Anna Murphy, Communications Lead We’re kicking off this new decade with a celebration of our own decade-long partnership: in the latest in our client testimonial video series, we spoke to Laura Boyd, Trading Director at Mint Velvet. Since we started supporting Mint Velvet in 2009, their business has grown from one shop to well over one hundred high street locations, a growing international presence, with Drapers reporting that turnover at Mint Velvet’s holding company, Sabre Retail Fashion, has risen to £101m. Laura said: “Retail Assist has been our partner since the birth of Mint Velvet. We partnered with Retail Assist right on day one to get the business up and running so, from that very first store that we opened in Chichester, to now, where we have over 150 locations on the UK high street and a very big digital ecommerce business which actually accounts for 50% of the brand’s sales, we’ve had Retail Assist with us all the way.” Click here to watch the video on YouTube. How do we support Mint Velvet? We provide complete IT support services for Mint Velvet, including our first-line Help Desk support, technical services, 2nd-line store systems support (including store openings), IT project management, business and network comms support, data centre (including support of machines, back-ups and operational support) and our supply chain software solution, Merret, and data exchange solution, Ra-X. Mint Velvet have been using our omnichannel supply chain, Merret, since 2009. “The reason the solution’s so valuable is that it really is an end-to-end solution for us,” Laura explained. “It provides everything the team needs in head office, so they have the back-office system for raising purchase orders, which is the very beginning of the process, and has the WSSI, which allows the teams to manage the stock, sales and intake through the business. “We also have an international presence now: we trade internationally in bricks-and-mortar stores and digitally. Again, Retail Assist has been the partner that has allowed us to do that and has supported that journey.” This has been through our software solutions and Help Desk support to their stores. How has our partnership evolved? Reflecting on the partnership, Laura said: “The high street and the way in which people have shopped has changed and, as it changes, we’ve needed to evolve the way in which we operate. Along the journey, there’s been many times we’ve requested enhancements or changes to the product and every time this has been required, together, as a team, we’ve been able to deliver what we wanted. “Retail Assist has been very open and supportive to changing that product to support our needs.” We’re here to support your expansion plans for this decade – and beyond! Click here to get in touch or email…
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  • 30 Dec 2019
What a Year! Here’s Our Round-Up of 2019’s Best Bits
Written by Anna Murphy, Communications Lead, and Andréa Williams, Marketing Officer 2019 has certainly not been without its events: a general election, Brexit (almost!), the first sub two-hour marathon, another royal baby and England nearly winning another rugby world cup have all captured just some of the headlines this year. So, as we all reach the end of this year – and this decade – it gives us a chance to reflect on the year we’ve also had and a few of our own headlines. Thank you for all of your support over the last year. From us all here at Retail Assist, we’d like to wish you all a wonderful, successful and prosperous 2020. Happy new year! January We kicked off the year by attending the National Retail Federation’s (NRF) Big Show. Held in New York City, Alex Broxson, Head of Marketing, and Anna Murphy, Communications Lead, represented Retail Assist at the show, vlogging live from the show floor. Read their blogs from Day 1 and Day 2, and also to watch their videos from Day 1 and Day 2.   February In February, we were very excited to welcome Smythson to our growing list of customers. Read more about how we support Smythson here.   March March held some very exciting news for us as we won ‘Best Service Desk CX (Customer Experience’ and were finalists for ‘Best Managed Service Provider 2019’ at the IT Service & Support Awards, hosted by SDI. Click here to read our overview of the evening and for a few more photos, including our Greatest Showman-inspired finalist video!   April This month saw the launch of our video mini-series, talking to smaller retailers and seeing how they approach providing the best customer experience, including 200 Degrees, Bird & Blend Tea Co. and Doughnotts.   May In May, we visited RBTE to network, walk the show floor and to record our highlights from the show. But that wasn’t all… we also won the ‘Sales and Marketing 2019’ award at the Nottingham Post Business Awards!   June On 16th June 2019, we turned 20! With celebrations both in our offices and also at our client drinks event in London, we welcomed in our next decade. Read our round-up here.   July At Retail Assist, we pride ourselves with the positive relationships that we build with our customers and we were thrilled to announce the contract extension with our customer, Hobbycraft.   August Over the summer, we enjoyed having YouTube blogger, Lydia Violeta, as a welcome addition to our marketing team. As a placement student, she produced videos for us, including ‘A Day in the Life’ as an insight into what it’s like to work in our Nottingham head office and Help Desk.   September In September, we attended the E-Commerce Expo, held at London’s Olympia. We also enjoyed a guest blog from Nelson Blackley, Retail Research Associate at the Nottingham Business School, Nottingham Trent University, and published our latest Gen Z research.   October Even more awards success! This time it was the turn…
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Boxing Day Stats 2019
  • 23 Dec 2019
Will It Be Boxing Yay? Our Round-Up of Black Friday Stats and Boxing Day Sales Predictions
Written by Anna Murphy, Communications Lead Peak trading is here. Retail’s busiest time, followed by Easter and Halloween, has landed with a bang and, with it, has brought some much-needed festive cheer to an otherwise challenging industry environment. But just how good was Black Friday 2019 and what does it suggest about Christmas shopping and the more traditional Boxing Day sales? Black FridayAs predicted in our annual Black Friday survey, 2019’s Black Friday sales proved to be a hit. In fact, the British Retail Consortium found that November clothing sales were up 6% for the period from 27 October to 23 November, compared to the same period last year. Helen Dickinson, chief executive at the British Retail Consortium, said the figures suggested shoppers were “ready to take advantage of the great bargains available, both online and on the high street”. The good news continued for the high street, as Black Friday footfall rose by 3.3% year on year compared with the equivalent day in 2018, research by intelligence analyst Springboard found. Alongside this, Barclaycard said that transaction values were up by 16.5% compared to 2018, with the volume of transactions up 7.2%. However, whilst this spells out great news for retailers who could capitalise on sales and increased footfall, will it lead to a quieter December as consumers bagged their bargains earlier than usual? Christmas Spending 2019Feel like your Christmas list seems to get bigger every year? You’re not the only one. Advisory firm Deloitte ran their European Christmas Survey which suggested that us Brits are the highest festive spenders in Europe, with people in the UK spending £567; this is up by £6 from last year and significantly higher when compared to the average European budget of an anticipated £395. But how is this money being spent? Unsurprisingly, the majority of UK shoppers’ budgets are headed for presents (£299), with £143 being spent on food and drink, followed by £63 on socialising and £62 on travelling over the party season, highlighting real opportunities for retailers and hospitality vendors to capture consumer spending. Deloitte also analysed more than 800,000 online and in-store products and suggested that this Christmas could see average price cuts potentially topping 50% by Christmas Eve for the first time, meaning that savvy shoppers could even grab a bargain in the run up to the big day, rather than waiting until Boxing Day for their sales items. Boxing DaySo, with a more positive outlook during this trading period, is it set to continue? Potentially, yes: in 2018, footfall on the 27, 28 and 29 of December was a third higher than on Boxing Day and it’s predicted that footfall on each of these days will be higher this year. This also leads support to our 2019 Black Friday survey analysis, which suggested that customers are now more tech savvy, taking the time to research where to find the best bargains before venturing to the high street. But when will the bargains go live? And is there a…
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What It's Like To Work At Retail Assist
  • 16 Dec 2019
“It’s just a great place to work, I love it!” Go behind the scenes to see what it’s like to work at Retail Assist!
Written by Anna Murphy, Communications Lead The new year also brings a new start and, if one of your new year’s resolutions is to embrace a new challenge in 2020, then look no further… with a vibrant office environment, an ever-evolving technology industry and brilliant people, why not join Retail Assist? We’ve gone behind the scenes to bring you a sneak peek into what it’s like to work here, with insights into the industry that we operate in and the buzzing environment in our workspaces. Watch the video below to see some members of our team from our Nottingham-based head office and Help Desk, and from both our Northampton App Centre and Data Centre, for further insights into what it’s like to work at Retail Assist. Click here to watch the video on YouTube Our Industry The industries which Retail Assist operates within are certainly fast paced. Alex Broxson, Head of Marketing, said: “We have some fantastic brands that we get to work with across retail and hospitality, and they’re both based in the UK and have international presence. “The market sectors in which we work of retail and hospitality are really exciting, too. It’s continually changing, continuing evolving, and we have to make sure that we’re up on that and supporting our customers in the best way.” What part does our Help Desk play in this? David Thomas, Help Desk Territory Specialist, explained: “We support clients from their head office in the UK and we also support them in territories as far away as France, Germany and America, offering the same level of service.” Just as in retail or hospitality, everything we do is with the customer – and end-user – in mind. Because of this, we’re constantly looking to keep our level of service as consistent as possible, no matter what the time of day or where the customer might be in the world. Our People So that’s what we do – but what do our people say about us? Here are just a few things that our team have to say about why they love working here: Neil Behagg, Senior Systems Engineer: “Every day is different, and every client has different needs, different technologies and different platforms, so having the ability to work across a wide range of technologies always keeps the job interesting.” Clara Roberson, Client Lead Analyst (CLA): “It’s very diverse and quite relaxed; you hear different languages every day, you experience different things every day. It’s not your standard company office job! Within the seven months that I’ve been here, I’ve done quite a lot and I’ve been promoted to CLA. It shows how much you can progress within a couple of months.” Simul Peda, Help Desk Call Analyst: “I really love my job because helping people makes me really happy!” Joe Throup, Commercial Executive: “Everyone in the team is great, even working across teams… everyone is one big family and that includes the directors as well. I really like that they have an…
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Retail Trends 2020
  • 9 Dec 2019
2020 Vision: What Retail Trends Can We Expect to See Next Year?
Written by Anna Murphy, Communications Lead As we head towards 2020, the retail industry in the UK finds itself in unchartered territory. Whilst much speculation has gone into gauging the impact of Brexit and what leaving the EU will do to domestic retail in terms of both supply and consumer demand, there is also further pressure from spikes in retail rent, changes in consumer spending habits and environmental expectations by both governments and consumers alike. However, with the current decade ending and question marks over what the next year will bring, looking at the retail industry in other terms is more beneficial. So, for 2020, where is the industry headed, what part will technology play and what should retailers be doing now? Looking Up: Consumer Spending Set to Rise The Centre for Retail Research (CRR) suggest in their Retail Forecast 2019-2020 report that consumer spending is set to rise by 0.8 per cent, and by a further 1.4 per cent in 2021. It is worth noting that these predictions come with the assumption “that Brexit will occur later in 2019”, and as this political decision still hangs in the air, this could throw the CRR figures into doubt somewhat. Yet taking this aside, the fact that the CRR still anticipates a rise in consumer spending should be seen as encouraging; a further boost comes from their assertion that international world trade is starting to grow again after slowing down in 2019-20 and, even more positively, that they don’t predict a world slump in 2020-21. Looking at these predictions, retailers looking to invest in new technologies and ways of working can do so without having to worry about saving money to combat negative sales as a result of macroenvironmental influences, focusing instead on improving the customer journey. Do Your Systems Support the Best Customer Journey? As always, customer expectations will drive the retail landscape in 2020. Considering which processes make the buying process as enjoyable and frictionless as possible for the customer is always at the heart of any good retail strategy, and meeting these desires will involve the increasing use of technology. Forbes predicts that rapid delivery of items will be a major trend that will have to be adapted to and one of the most efficient ways of doing this is by retailers using auto replenishment systems to move stock between locations where it is most in demand, purchase order management to build up product ranges and warehouse management systems to keep proper track of items. Forbes also cites ‘social shopping’ as being vital, with a consumer being able to take visuals of clothing items and find them online, click items they see others wearing in images and purchase them, with 360 degree data all playing a part. Ensuring that your product data is consistent and adapted to the correct audience is critical to support the customer journey and using a Product Information Management (PIM) solution will play a vital role in achieving that. Efficiency and Effectiveness In a…
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Retail Assist Client Drinks
  • 2 Dec 2019
We’ll drink to that! Celebrating Another Successful Year at Our Client Drinks Event
Written by Anna Murphy, Communications Lead It might only seem like a few weeks has passed since our summer birthday drinks event, but it was time to party again! Held at the new Simmons bar on Oxford Street, we were right in the heart of London’s infamous shopping district. With our customers and partners all gathered, we saw out the year with some festive cheer. A huge thank you to everyone who attended – we had a brilliant time and it was lovely to see so many familiar faces, and to meet some new ones, too. Did you attend? Scroll down to see our photos of the night.…
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Driving the In-Store Digital Experience
  • 25 Nov 2019
Unlock the Future of Retail: Driving the In-Store Digital Experience
Guest blog by Jake Marshall, Content Executive, Mercaux It’s hard to imagine reading about the future of retail without seeing the word ‘digital’. Much of the commentary on the store of the future is centred around digital transformation — the idea that retailers need to ‘adapt or die’ as they face increasing pressures from e-commerce. It’s clear that the future of in-store retail is digital. But what does this actually mean? As part of Mercaux’s store of the future report, we surveyed senior executives working in retail to find out more. So, what exactly should we expect from the digital store of the future? Customer Centricity Unsurprisingly, 87% of retailers believe that customer expectations will become more important when defining the store experience in the future. In a digital age of social media, e-commerce and instant gratification, customer expectations are ever increasing. Whether consumers demand an efficient service to fit in with their busy lifestyles, or they are looking for a personalised, curated retail experience, technology is key. 85% of customers expect click and collect today, while cutting-edge technologies like interactive screens and augmented reality are a future expectation for 76% and 84% of customers. By putting the customer first, retailers benefit from increased customer lifetime value and brand loyalty. Yet only a fifth of retailers report that they are capable of reacting to shifting customer expectations quickly. Many need to invest in basic tech functionalities – like click and collect – before they can move on to experimenting with more advanced in-store technology such as augmented reality or touchscreen mirrors. Empowered Employees Earlier this year, Retail Assist conducted a survey between Gen X, Y and Z, and found that the vast majority of people are using smartphones as an extension of their everyday lives: with this in mind, it’s needless to say that shopping habits have evolved to follow suit. Stores are continuously competing for their shoppers’ attention against smartphones, which offer a distracting stream of inspiration and rich content. So, when 40% of retailers say that their employees don’t have enough product information to effectively make a sale, how can store staff keep pace with the endless amount of information available online? The challenge lies in empowering sales associates with product information and content like branded digital lookbooks, marketing videos and social media content that they can use to inspire shoppers and tell a story about the brand. This challenge presents an opportunity to increase dwell time, build the customer relationship and help store staff to feel more empowered, to take ownership and to therefore achieve greater job satisfaction. Consistent Experiences The role of the store is shifting. 80% of retailers said that the most important purpose for the store today is a place for people to purchase products. When you look forward five years, however, the same number of retailers expect the main purpose of stores to shift towards being experience and discovery centres. The modern shopper is channel agnostic. With this comes a need to create…
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We Celebrate More Awards Triumph With Our Award-Winning Team
  • 18 Nov 2019
They’re Simply the Best! We Celebrate More Awards Triumph With Our Award-Winning Team
Written by Anna Murphy, Communications Lead We think very highly of our staff and services, so it’s always great when that’s recognised by those outside of our organization, too! This year has been fantastic for awards success. Having won ‘Best CX (Customer Experience) 2019’ at the SDI’s IT Service & Support Awards and also the ‘Sales and Marketing’ award at the Nottingham Post Business Awards, we were also finalists for four other awards and categories across the business. However, never ones to rest on our laurels, the hard work and dedication of our team has officially been recognised again. Tina Hand – ‘Empowering Potential Leader’, East Midlands Leadership Awards Head of Systems Support, Tina Hand, was recognised at the East Midlands Leadership Awards, winning ‘Empowering Potential Leader’. Held on 6th November 2019, the awards, run by, applauded business talent from a variety of sectors across the East Midlands. Since joining in February 2018, Tina has redeveloped the Help Desk structure to create new roles, which allows for better progression opportunities for our staff, which also gives a smoother and more responsive experience for the customer. Along with this, she has also made a variety of changes across the systems and processes used amongst the Help Desk, always with the customer and her staff in mind. Nominated by her Help Desk colleagues, one person said: “She always has time for us, no matter how busy she is. Tina always has some incredible advice and has a very calming effect on everyone around her. If I think about empowering leaders, I couldn’t think of anyone else who would be more suitable for the award than Tina.” Well done, Tina! Andi Williams – ‘NTU Placement Student of the Year Award’, Nottingham Trent University Placement Employer and Student Awards Our Marketing Officer, Andi Williams, first joined Retail Assist on her placement year whilst studying Marketing at Nottingham Trent University. Quickly impressing her marketing colleagues with her ambition, maturity and drive, Andi showed a fantastic aptitude for marketing and knowledge of the retail and hospitality sectors. She was nominated for the award by Alex Broxson, Head of Marketing. Alex said: “She has the maturity and business acumen of someone far beyond her years: you actually forget she is still a student!  We’ve been so impressed by her that she is also working for us on a part-time basis whilst she finishes her degree.” Although the calibre of nominations for the award was extremely high, Andi was granted the ‘Placement Student of the Year’ award after beating stiff competition across her peer group. Congratulations, Andi! ‘Services Company of the Year’, BCS UK IT Awards Held on Wednesday 13th November at Battersea Evolution, the BCS UK IT Awards celebrates success across the IT industry. After an award application followed by a presentation in Manchester, we were delighted to be placed as finalists in the ‘Services Company of the Year’ category. Having won the category in 2017 and also placing as finalist in 2018, we were thrilled…
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