IT services and solutions for retail and hospitality


  • 11 Mar 2019
St Patrick’s Day: Will the Luck of the Irish Turn its Hand to UK Retail?
Written by Anna Murphy, Communications Executive, and Andréa Williams, Marketing Officer Saint Patrick might be the patron saint of Ireland, but his name and feast day has come to be synonymous with celebrations. However, whilst many people around the UK will take part in St Patrick’s Day events on the 17th March, in America it’s a billion dollar industry; in fact, predicted spending for 2019 is expected to exceed $5.61bn. If the UK has followed American retail trends in the past, is St Patrick’s Day set to become a key UK trading event of the future? According to NRF, 55% of Americans plan to celebrate this year, with the biggest spends unsurprisingly going on food and beverages. Yet consumers are also looking to spend their pretty green on decorations and apparel, with 77% of men and 84% of women planning to wear green on the day. Interestingly, the breakdown in this percentage indicates that 87% of 18-24 year olds and 82% of 24-34 year olds plan on wearing green, perhaps providing an unexpected link between the saint’s day and the rise of Halloween, as Gen Z and their millennial counterparts tap into the ‘dressing up’ element of the revelries. NRF’s annual St Patrick’s Day research also highlighted retailers such as Aldi who are targeting shoppers with products such as green or beer-flavoured cheese and other grocery chains embracing the holiday’s feature colour with displays of Granny Smith apples. However, it’s not just the supermarket sector. A quick google of “St Patrick’s Day Clothes” leads to some UK retailers, such as River Island, linking to a selection of their green clothes and accessories whilst other global brands are taking it one step further. Adidas recently announced their St Patrick’s Day collection: a limited edition run of their Handball Spezial trainers which has three different Irish-themed colourways and “a clover sign-off to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day”. Perhaps this is yet another example of the globalisation of retail, as certain location-specific trends start to spread to other localities. So is St Patrick’s Day a growing trend? NRF certainly thinks so. A decade ago, only half of consumers under the age of 35 planned to celebrate, whereas now it has grown to over 70 percent. And, if the rising popularity of Halloween is anything to go by, with Mintel now praising it as the third biggest retail event of the year after Christmas and Easter, it suggests that St Patrick’s Day looks set take the UK retail and hospitality sector by storm.   Retail Assist provides IT support to the retail and hospitality sector, which is crucial for peak trading periods. Want to hear how we can reduce your IT costs by 30% whilst also reducing system downtime? Click here or email marketing@retail-assist.co.uk.…
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How to Avoid the February Sales Slump - Retail Assist
  • 18 Feb 2019
Short, but Deadly! How to Avoid the February Sales Slump
Written by Anna Murphy, Communications Executive No sooner has the heady rush of Christmas washed over the retail world than a second wave comes in the form of the January sales. Business is kept brisk by an array of shoppers flocking to spend vouchers, Christmas money and to take advantage of this traditional discounting period. Fast forward to the next month and it’s a stark contrast. February ushers in a more sober retail environment and sales slumps are common as shoppers tighten their budgets. So how do retailers combat this by making the most of this short but challenging month? Target the season Instead of seeing it as a negative month, acknowledging the season and utilising its unique characteristics can produce results. Retailers are fully aware of how customers must feel, so why not capitalise on this knowledge? The New Year mindset in many is one of renewed focus on new ideas, new ways of living and, crucially, of being willing to buy items related to this thinking. Promoting and prioritising items for retail that support this is a good idea; people may well be searching out fitness clothing, but are perhaps less likely to be purchasing clothing for parties and functions for example. Conversely, those who may have participated in Dry January, or who have subsided their extraneous spending until the January pay day, may well be ready to hit the social scene once more! Knowing the target market and how they like to spend their money in minute detail provides key insights no matter what the time of year. Launch a campaign Starting some form of promotional campaign in February can help shoppers make decisions on items they perhaps were putting off until another month. Retargeting campaigns based around contacting who expressed interest in items in the run-up to Christmas, but didn’t actually purchase them, can be part of mail-outs and selective discounting aimed at encouraging customers to fulfil their purchases. There is also scope to base significant campaigns around key dates in February such as Valentine’s Day and the various school half-term holidays, both of which can be used to a retailers advantage. Product countdowns that allow customers to see exactly how much stock there is left of limited items will also draw them in and encourage them to act swiftly. Having a clear customer engagement strategy with specific content marketing will encourage purchasing decisions. Use time and budgets in a different way As sales slow in February, taking advantage of any extra time can be advantageous. Stepping aside from the day-to-day business of a busy retail environment, focus can instead be dedicated to future plans, reflecting on how successful the Christmas and New Year period was and considering what worked and what didn’t. Strategies can be considered for upcoming months and areas such as marketing and its efficiency can be looked at. Considering how the budget might be redirected temporarily can also be helpful. As trading can be slower, taking the usual budget dedicated to the…
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Black Friday 2018
  • 30 Nov 2018
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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Easter retail footfall
  • 3 Apr 2018
Easter Retail Footfall 2018
Bank Holiday washout. Three words dreaded by businesses and consumers alike. The Easter Bank Holiday saw shoppers stay indoors: consumers failed to get a spring in their step with Easter retail footfall plummeting. Easter Bank Holiday in numbers Total shop visits were down by 2.4% between Friday and Easter Sunday, compared with last year. Easter High Street footfall fell 9.6% on Good Friday. On Saturday it dropped 6.9% and, after a 1.9% uplift on Sunday, shopper numbers declined 6.4% on Easter Monday. The early bout of rain on Monday morning further deterred would-be shoppers – high street footfall Easter Monday was down 13.9% by midday. A soggy start to Spring Just a week ago, Springboard had predicted that 2018 Easter retail footfall in the UK could end up 2.7% higher than last year’s, though it had said this depended on “normal weather” conditions. Easter Bank Holiday footfall had been anticipated to increase due to the timing of UK payday falling before Easter, and the increase in February footfall. But is this not the key message – that retailers need to brace themselves for all conditions, ‘whatever the weather’? When will retailers see the sun? Springboard’s Insights Director Diane Wehrle said: “In overall terms footfall is still down compared with Easter last year. Easter footfall also declined in the previous two years, so it is clear that Easter is becoming less important as a key retail trading period.” However, online shopping and traffic to mobile devices has again appeared to weather the storm, showing increases as opposed to scenes on the High Street. Once again, the figures show why it is of prime importance to offer your customers a relevant and convenient experience, whichever channel they choose to shop. If your IT services and solutions aren’t supported during Bank Holidays, a peak time for retailers and hospitality operators (but often considered ‘special hours’ by some suppliers) see how our retail IT support could help. Our team is available 24 x 7, supporting end users across 8650+ global locations in 12 languages! Find out more here, or email your IT support requirements to marketing@retail-assist.co.uk…
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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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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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  • 28 Nov 2016
Are you coping with peak demand?
Whether your Black Friday sales period took place over one weekend, one week, or in some cases, 10 days, did your stores cope well with Black Friday demand this year? And are you prepared for the festive sales to come? On Black Friday, some of our customers were transacting around £1million per hour on average – sales figures that can’t be put at risk. This blog will look at how Retail Assist can help to improve your performance at peak times, to ensure a profitable Christmas trading season. Retailers know when to expect a sales surge, and so at these times, your IT infrastructure must operate consistently at 100%. However, downtime can affect anyone, even the most organised. Our IT services and solutions are developed with this in mind, for example the high availability of our omnichannel supply chain solution, Merret, and our 24×7 international Help Desk support, to keep your store transactions running smoothly. Venturing into the peak retail season, putting the correct processes in place is critical. Our Peak Trading Checklist is a great place to start. We developed this guide with input from leading retailers, in order for you to check off areas that encompass all aspects of IT store support. Retail IT Support: our Help Desk. It’s all about being proactive. Our Help Desk analysts work to reduce the number of incidents our customers experience, by identifying patterns and data trends, to prevent future issues from recurring. This might also involve identifying where costs are being incurred unnecessarily, and reducing the number of chargeable hardware call outs for example. Consumers now have the ability to transact anywhere, at any time – Black Friday 2016 stats show a peak of customers shopping from 1am! Therefore, retailers’ IT support must reflect 24 x 7 expectations. Outsourced service providers, like ourselves, can bridge the gap between in-house capabilities. We play a vital “weekend” or “out of hours” role for some many of our customers, working as a crucial extended part of their own teams. Improved systems availability, enhanced customer service, reduced overall service cost and, most importantly, increased profits, are all benefits to be expected of a well-resourced IT support service. If you’d like to implement our award-winning services, our retail project management team can manage the service transition end-to-end within months. Get in touch here for more information or to register your interest for our IT services and solutions.…
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  • 14 Nov 2016
Black Friday 2016 begins
With just 10 days to go until Black Friday traditionally launches on the last Friday in November, shoppers are already taking advantage of early deals. Where are the best Black Friday deals 2016? Amazon UK launched ‘The Black Friday Sale’ today, and remains the first etailer to do so. Extensive discounts are available across all departments, with “double the number of deals” compared to last year. The online retailer said it was extending its promotions, which ran for a week last year, in response to customer feedback. Other retailers will be soon to follow Amazon’s early start: Argos will be begin cutting prices on Friday 18th whilst Tesco starts its Black Friday deals on Monday 21st. Debenhams will also begin the sale early, launching on Monday 21st. But with all the media hype, retailer backlash on margin damage, and so called “consumer fatigue” towards the event, why are retailers still making so much of Black Friday? Sales volumes over Black Friday and Cyber Monday make up a large amount of Christmas purchases. In 2015, Amazon (UK) sold over 7.4 million items over its week-long event in the UK: selling on average 86 items per second at peak time. Black Friday 2015 was also the largest and most successful shopping day for Argos in its trading history. Retail Week reported that both Amazon and Argos are increasing their workforces, with Argos recruiting 10,000 seasonal workers and Amazon hiring 20,000. In essence, retailers are still competing on price. If you can find your favourite fragrance for a third of the price at another retailer, what’s to stop you ditching your go-to department store in the face of a cheaper item? Consumers now have the knowledge, and paired with unlimited choice, this definitely gives them the power. Look out for our full Black Friday analysis after the event. Don’t slip up on customer experience during peak trading season. Ensure your stores are well prepared with our free checklist: download it here.  …
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Black Friday Christmas
  • 7 Nov 2016
Black Friday demand: hype or reality?
The media does much to hype up Black Friday year on year, inflating the event as the end of November approaches. From spending forecasts of £5BN, to hints about the best deals, consumers can’t help but be swept up in the Black Friday build-up. But how far are the forecasts correct? Are UK consumers still buying into the Black Friday concept, or are they tired of the retail frenzy? Our Black Friday survey reveals more. Something that could damage this year’s Black Friday experience is the apparent mismatch between retailers’ and consumers’ perceptions of expected spending. Research for Retail Week conducted by Retail Economics shows that 40% of retailers are anticipating higher demand, but only a small 14% of consumers intend to spend more during Black Friday 2016. In fact, as the infographic shows above, nearly ¾ shoppers actually plan to spend LESS this year. Of the survey conducted by Retail Assist, just over half of our respondents (59%) are planning to shop at all. So, can retailers really sit back and relax if consumers are planning to spend less? In short, the answer is no. Black Friday is still a largely unpredictable event. Who’s to say that of those consumers “planning not to buy”, they might browse online or in-store over the weekend, and be tempted to make an unexpected purchase due to the lure of “unmissable” discounts. In addition, the vast amount of consumers logging on to browse deals means your ecommerce platform must be functioning at 100% performance to provide the best customer experience, even if those prospecting shoppers don’t convert. Black Friday will still be used as a measure against which retailers’ peak trading performance is tested, and judged by consumers and the wider retail industry. Make sure you’ve planned for Peak Trading. Working with leading retailers, we have developed a simple in-store checklist to make sure staff and systems are best prepared for increased demand. You can download Retail Assist’s free peak trading guide here.    …
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  • 31 Oct 2016
Black Friday Survey 2016
Black Friday 2016 is hot on the agenda for retailers, taking place at the end of the November – from Friday 25th November and across the long weekend. Current predictions have indicated that online channels (especially mobile) are ones to watch this Black Friday: £5billion is expected to be splashed out over “Black Fiveday”, and that just accounts for online spend. In order to analyse the consumer opinion of Black Friday trading, this year 300 respondents took our Black Friday survey. See our full findings in the below Black Friday infographic. You can view our Black Friday 2015 survey results here. With just over half of respondents planning to buy something on Black Friday (59%), this is the same percentage as in 2015. As mentioned before, it may seem low, but this figure doesn’t take into account the amount of impulse buyers that could take unexpected advantage of “don’t miss deals” over the Fiveday sale periods. Although last year predictions totalled £1billion, in reality UK shoppers spent £3.3bn over the weekend online and in-store. This is the “unpredictable” demand, in the face of which retailers have geared up to prime and protect their ecommerce platforms, logistics and supply chain operations for maximum performance. Will 2016 sales top £5bn predictions? Time will tell.  54% of respondents are looking to take advantage of the extended Black “Fiveday” discount period, making multiple purchases across the weekend. Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales may also affected due to the event falling before the traditional UK payday on top10paydaysites. A massive 77% of respondents are set to be online Black Friday shoppers, which is an increase on 70% in 2015. The move to online has been reported on extensively in recent years, as the scrumlike fights in-store for discount TVs in 2014 have given over to purchases behind screens and virtual queueing. This is perhaps due to consumer frustrations and fears about a hectic in-store Black Friday experience. Did you know that 40% of consumers won’t queue for longer than 2 minutes, and 51% refuse to even enter a store if they see a queue? Increased demand means a busy store is inevitable, but making customer service more efficient should be a number one priority for retailers during peak trading season. Till down-time and queueing are preventable issues, if you have the correct support in place. Our IT Help Desk analysts are experienced in front line retail service, and understand the real impact of systems downtime at peak periods. Our 24×7 IT and technical support facilitates greater systems uptime at point of service, critical for any brand, any time of year. You can download our How To Guide: Preparing Stores for Peak Trading, here. Make sure to check out our post Black Friday analysis blog, for a full analysis and breakdown of this year’s event. If you’d like to use our survey results, please get in touch at marketing@retail-assist.co.uk.…
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