IT services and solutions for retail and hospitality

Retail Assist Turns 18

Retail Assist investment
  • 19 Jun 2017
Retail Assist Turns 18
Retail Assist had its official “coming of age” last Friday, as the business celebrated its 18th year of trading. It’s a very significant milestone for the company, after attracting significant investment in March. With ambitious growth plans for Retail Assist, our Board of Directors (headed by Dan Smith) will take the business on to the next stage of its development. So, what’s changed in 18 years? Since 1999, when Retail Assist was founded, retail has evolved into a whole different proposition; technology is not just important to retailers, but the cornerstone of their operations. We have seen the relentless rise of ecommerce, the launch of click-and-collect as the poster-child for customer convenience, UK retailers going global, and key changes in approaches to the traditional bricks and mortar store (who knew they would end up becoming virtual distribution hubs for web orders through ship-from-store?) In the face of these sector shifts, Retail Assist has adopted its services and solutions to an omnichannel world: 24 x 7 “always on” provision, software design and development to drive changes in retail operations, and supporting the “buy anything, at anytime, anywhere” principle. We now support major clients in the hospitality sector too. As well as 8000 retail stores, we also support more than 700 restaurants, and over 90 cinemas in 66 countries across the world. Check out our industry award-winning Help Desk stats here. Compared with industry averages, we have 10% higher achievement of Service Level Agreements, 4 x more sites supported, double the number of languages spoken and 4 x more support capacity than industry average. To celebrate our 18th birthday, we invited clients and partners to a summer drinks event in Soho. You can see the pictures on Facebook here. Internally, all staff were presented with a bottle of fizz to enjoy over the warm weekend. Thank you to all our clients, business partners and colleagues for all your support over the last 18 years. Looking forward to the 21st!  …
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retail IT solutions
  • 9 Jan 2017
NRF 2017: Retail Technology blog
It’s just 5 days until NRF’s BIG Retail Show in New York, and we’re looking forward to sharing our insights. As with any technology expo, NRF Expo promises to showcase latest innovations in technology for revolutionising the retail sector and enhancing the customer experience. However, after reading articles from CES 2017 in Las Vegas, some of the “innovations” demonstrated were somewhat questionable, honestly reviewed by the BBC here. Would you wear a pair of “tickle jeans”, vibrating to direct you to your destination instead of getting out your smartphone? Or perhaps a smart bin, able to tell you exactly what you’ve thrown away in order to automatically create shopping lists. Very interesting with some spot on observations about when can technology can become pointless BBC News – CES 2017: — Alan Morris (@Alan_R_Morris) January 4, 2017 So true! Am hoping NRF next week won’t fall into the same trap. Trick will be to sort the wheat from the chaff — Andrew Busby (@andrewbusby) January 5, 2017 Lesson #1: identify the need being satisfied. “Just because you can monitor an activity doesn’t mean you should […] A lot of times we see products that are trying to solve a problem that just isn’t there.” – tech analyst, Caroline Milanesi. Lesson #2: make it unique, but not tech for tech’s sake. Purposeful deployment, where a need is satisfied, must be the goal. Lesson #3: technology is an investment, so returns must be tangible. It’s no use introducing new technology that promises a new experience for the customer, unless the end result is profitable. Magic Mirrors perhaps declined for this reason, outplayed by interactive fitting room technology able to upsell and increase conversion rate. You can be assured that our retail technology blog and NRF vlogs from Head of Marketing, Alex Broxson, will combine new perspectives on issues in the retail sector with purposeful, easily deployable technology solutions. It’s the same thinking behind our retail technology pop-up, Nexpo, hosted a few months ago with Karen Millen. If you’d like to meet up with the Retail Assist team whilst in New York, please visit our NRF 2017 page. Not attending NRF? Don’t miss an update! We’ll be tweeting @RetailAssist, posting Facebook Live videos and compiling NRF 2017 vlogs on our Youtube channel.…
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international help desk support
  • 13 Jun 2016
SITS 16 takeaways: Service Desk and IT Support Show
Last week we attended SITS 16, the Service Desk and IT Support Show for industry professionals, at Kensington Olympia. It was a great opportunity to meet up with familiar faces, chat to partners and network with new ones. With nearly half of IT Professionals looking to upgrade their current Service Desk solution in the next 24 months, today’s blog brings you the latest industry insights from the show. As this year’s winners of Best Managed Service Desk at the Service Desk Institute’s annual IT Service & Support Awards, it was great to catch up with their Directors and Research team at the Service Desk Institute‘s stand. We enjoyed speaking about the latest developments in our Help Desk team and to our technology – especially App Academy. App Academy is an online e-learning platform used by our customers to learn best practice by way of our applications to increase operational efficiency. As noted in the SDI’s latest benchmarking report, self-service usage has increased to 81%, and so is a valuable tool for our Help Desk customers to increase their knowledge and self-deliver simple fixes. As a forward thinking business, invested in the quality of our service delivery, we would highly recommend entering the SDI Awards. The awards process really helped us to identify our key areas for development, part of our continuous improvement process that is embedded in our team’s DNA. As well as complementing our improvement, the Awards have played a key part in our Help Desk culture, providing the team with a huge boost. The Award is a well-deserved recognition for their work in supporting the leading UK retail and hospitality businesses worldwide. Here are some of our key takeaways from the Expo: Customer Satisfaction Did you know that by 2020, customers will manage 85% of their relationships without ever interacting with a human? This notable statistic is research from Gartner, shared by Hannah Price from TOPdesk UK in her seminar on customer satisfaction metrics. With interaction on the decline, it’s more important than ever to engage your customer in the most relevant way possible, and customer feedback is one of the most important assets any business can tap into. That’s why we’re committed to sharing the results of our Help Desk customers’ feedback, in order to show where we’re improving based on their experiences. In summer, we’re holding a Help Desk Advisory Board with one of our most high profile hospitality customers, a leading UK coffee chain, in order to truly understand how they use the service, and how we can develop together to support their business objectives. Top 3 takeaways for a successful customer satisfaction survey? 1) Time it right – avoid busy periods, as these solicit a poor response rate 2) Talk the same language – avoid jargon and make questions easy to answer 3) Spread the good news – communicate the survey results to encourage a proactive culture and inspire confidence in the service Innovation, innovation, innovation The message from many industry experts and service…
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  • 15 Feb 2016
Click and Collect Benefits for Retailers
What is Click and Collect? How do I implement Click and Collect? What are the benefits of Click and Collect? Read on to find out more about the delivery method improving customer experience in the name of convenience: we’re helping leading retail brands achieve this with Merret. After our retail blog focus on the Ship from Store process, and the benefits of using it to fulfil orders from/through any channel, we wanted to bring you another retail process that’s in focus this year: Click and Collect. Definition: The Click and Collect concept enables shoppers to purchase items online and pick them up in the physical store, merging eCommerce and physical retail outlets together. It can often make the shopping journey more convenient for consumers: making a purchase from the comfort of their own home, and collecting the item whenever is most convenient for them, instead of paying for shipping and not being in to take delivery of the item, or waiting for their delivery to arrive. In research conducted by ourselves last year, we found that over a third of consumers enjoy the benefits of using Click and Collect and will continue to use it as their delivery method of choice. So, what are the benefits to the retailer? We’ve rounded up the industry’s top stats, to give an insight into why you should consider implementing Click and Collect into your omnichannel processes. Points for Consideration Additional load to the store must be appreciated. Ensure that staff are trained effectively and ready to cope with the potential demand placed on stores for processing the additional Click and Collect deliveries, as well as despatching orders to the customer in store. Ensuring that there is room in the store, for example the back office, to receive and process Click and Collect deliveries. Training for upselling during the Click and Collect process is critical for making the most of Click and Collect sales uplift. For example, if the store staff scans a package and sees that it contains a black dress, they could suggest shoes or accessories to pair with it whilst at the till point. Ensuring that stores embrace Click and Collect as a cultural change rather than see it as a hindrance. As such, procedures need to be in place to ensure that the store despatching the order is credited for the sale. Also, incentivise store staff to hit store despatch targets in the new omnichannel culture. Retail Assist has worked hard to engineer its supply chain solution with the above points in mind. If you’d like to speak with one of our retail IT team about how to make your Click and Collect operations more time and cost efficient, please don’t hesitate to contact us on 0115 853 3910. Or, for more information about our retail IT solutions, check out our website page. You can also fill out our quick and easy contact form and someone will be in touch.…
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retail IT support
  • 30 Oct 2015
Halloween 2015: will retailers be spooked by demand?
With recent estimates stating UK Halloween sales are expected to reach £460 million for retailers this year, seasonality is evidently still a big win for retail brands. Pumpkins, witch hats, trick or treat provisions: no doubt you’ll have had a panic dash to your nearest shop to purchase one/all of the above this week. We wanted to find out more about consumers’ purchasing habits and general plans for the Halloween period, so in true Retail Assist style, we’ve conducted a survey and produced an infographic of our spooky findings: Where will consumers be shopping? Supermarkets took an overwhelming majority when it comes to Halloween purchasing habits; keeping their title as the “go-to” stores for Halloween shoppers in search of costumes and treats. 67% voted for supermarkets as their preferred place to shop Halloween items, over the 33% of people choosing fashion retailers. Retail Week’s recent survey also noted that supermarkets came out on top last year, with 38.3% of costume purchases made at a supermarket in 2014. Sadly for independents, nearly three quarters of people source their pumpkins from a supermarket, rather than from a traditional pumpkin patch. What will consumers be doing? Our survey shows that most people plan to watch a scary film this Halloween, which is great news for our customer Vue Cinemas! Are you brave enough to watch the new Paranormal Activity instalment? 53% will be sitting down to a scary film, whilst 28% will be attending costume parties, and 19% having a night out. The hospitality industry will definitely experience a burst of activity this weekend. So, what will people be watching behind their cushions tomorrow evening? Hocus Pocus stormed ahead, taking 34% of the votes as people’s favourite Halloween film. This proves that classic cult films retain popularity: perhaps we could do with a new Halloween classic to be released! To find out more about our work with Vue, just visit their dedicated page here. For more information about how our Help Desk supports their cinema estate, you can also request a case study. With busy trading expected, our Help Desk teams are gearing up to support our customers from day to night, with a smile, 24 x 7. Have a Happy Halloween, from all at RA! Pumpkin credits to our Contracts Manager, Rumyana Topliyska!    …
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  • 9 Mar 2015
What should I buy Mum for Mother’s Day?
What should I buy Mum for Mother’s Day? This is perhaps the question on every son and daughter’s lips this week! 78% of people we recently surveyed believe that their Mum deserves the 5* treatment this year, so here’s our top 5 gift guide for Mother’s Day, for 5 different types of Mum. 1) The best friend We might not like to admit it, but Mums can be pretty fun, and I’m definitely one to say that Mum is one of my best friends! So, why not treat her to the season’s hottest handbag to take on your next trip out, whether that’s for a glass of wine, or hitting the high street! The tasselled bucket bag is everywhere this Spring, and Warehouse takes the best of the 70s trend, relaxing it with an optional neutral grey suede. Definitely a high fashion, high street steal. At £40, it doesn’t break the bank. (Plus, it’s real leather, so will definitely make for a fantastic hand-me-down afterwards). 2) “Home is where my Mum is” Mint Velvet’s Wild Fig candle has all the comforting tranquil scents of home. Give Mum a cosy night in and let her relax in style, with a woody blend of fig leaf and blackberry scents, and essential oils of cedarwood, patchouli, galbanum and vetiver. Mint Velvet is also running a Mother’s Day Photo competition on Pinterest. To win a £100 shopping voucher, send a retro photo to; winner announced 16.03.2015. 3) The outdoors lover Now that spring is in the air, going out for a countryside walk is just the tonic after a warming Sunday Roast. We absolutely love Joules’ women’s “wellibobs”, perfect for taking the dog for a walk through the fields, or for brightening up a rainy English day. Joules’ iconic wellies come in a variety of quintessential British patterns, and are currently on sale at £26.95. Even better! 4) The Power-Dresser Mums who always step out on trend will love this little black dress with a seasonal splash of bold spring colour from Planet. Perfect for the office or an occasion, the fit and flare style will suit Mums of all shapes and sizes. This dress from Planet is £99, and available in sizes 8-20. 5) The Mum who has it all! Instead of having a last minute scramble in the shops, why not treat Mum to a luxury dining experience at Harvey Nichols? Harvey Nichols is offering a set lunch on Sunday 15th March at The OXO Tower Restaurant in London at £65 per person, or in the Brasserie at £55 per person, with a £20 menu for children. In fact, 63% of people take their Mum out as a nice way to celebrate Mother’s Day, and 44% will be taking their Mum out to dine. For more stats, see our Help Desk’s blog on Mother’s Day outings – complete with our own survey and infographic. Whatever you decide to do, we hope that you put a smile on the face of the…
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  • 25 Nov 2014
The Retail Future’s Bright so let’s put on Google Glasses
With technology revolutionising the way we shop what does the future hold? November 2014: “The way people shop has changed more in the last 5 years than it has in the last 20,” states Alan Morris, Executive Chairman of Retail Assist. “The age of online has revolutionised the way we shop and we have seen a progression from desktops through to laptops, mobile and tablets aiding our online shopping habits and forcing retailers to reinvent themselves in the digital age.” Continued Morris. It is now over 20 years since the first widely recognised online purchase of the ‘Ten Summoner’s Tales’ album by Sting, sold for $12.48 plus shipping – and this was just the tip of the retail technology ice-burg. Over the last 20 years a lot has happened, there has been the launch of pure play e-tailers, such as ASOS and Ocado, whose business models simply wouldn’t exist without technology. In 2004 Facebook launched and become the largest online social media site, alongside later developments like Trip Advisor, in which customers were able to start generating their own online content. We have also seen the launch of the iPhone, and the online trading currency payment system, BITCOIN. Over the last two decades technology has progressed from a behind the scenes support system to an instrumental factor in long-term retail growth. Consumers are without doubt setting the pace for these changes in retail, and this means that companies have to be agile and fluid in order to keep up. With such exciting and dramatic changes having taken place throughout the last 20 years, what can we expect from the technology of tomorrow? Predictive Personalisation – Currently when placing a food order online systems remember your previous orders and makes the whole process easier second time round, automatically adding these items to your basket. But in the future this will progress even further with ‘predictive personalisation’ – systems actually recognising and encouraging sales in relation to your likes and dislikes, generating brand affinity – and this will not just be in regards to grocery retailing. Furthermore this could lead to the movement of computers from back-line to front-line, with the computer adopting the role of the manager, making the crucial decisions that the physical staff will then have to adhere to. Click-and-Collect – This still holds massive scope for future developments. Not only will the service become more popular, with a predicted 76% of online shoppers using the service by 2017, but will also help to shape and develop the high-street. This Christmas click-and-collect sales are estimated to reach highs of £3 billion, which is a 40% increase on last year. Additionally, retail consultancy firm Conlumino has predicted that each trip to collect click-and-collect purchases will result in a spontaneous spend of £27. With results like this and currently only two thirds of the top high-street retailers offering the service we expect this number to expand rapidly in 2015. ‘Shoppable videos’ – Video content which generates retail sales are already starting…
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  • 28 Oct 2014
Retail Assist takes part in Robin Hood Day
Everyone has heard of Robin Hood, Nottinghamshire’s most famous heroic outlaw and the world’s favourite folk hero. Robbing from the rich to give to the poor alongside his band of Merry Men, his adventures have been retold down the generations, from medieval ballads to Hollywood blockbusters. So this weekend, when Nottingham hosted ‘Robin Hood Day’, as a local Nottingham business we just knew we had to get involved. The Robin Hood Marketing Committee, made up of members from the city and county councils and Experience Nottinghamshire, as well as Robin Hood enthusiasts, decided to set up the event on 25th October to help promote the county’s legendary figure. The idea behind this was that the local community and businesses across Nottinghamshire would get involved, from theming menus to getting dressed up as Robin Hood, becoming an annual event. Tony Bates, a committee member has been instrumental in organising the event using social media to not only advertise the day but also helping to gain interest and traction with local businesses. Tony who also got involved by donning a green outfit himself, commented; “One of our focuses is to claim back Robin Hood for Nottingham. We want a day where people can have fun and celebrate our local legend.” It was nice to see other local businesses getting involved, such as McDonald’s at Exchange Walk’s and their Robin Hood themed tree and also the butchers at the Victoria Market were some of our favourites. We were really excited to get involved and enjoyed getting some pictures on the roof of the Retail Assist building with Nottingham Castle in the background, we also paid the Robin Hood statue a visit. Here at Retail Assist we are an award winning retail IT services and solutions provider. Offering IT support through a dedicated 24/365 service desk, data centre, remote monitoring, supply chain solution and project services. Retail Assist can support multichannel retailers’ head offices, supply chains, websites and stores. If you are interested in our IT systems and support services you can visit our website: or get in touch, email: and telephone: 0115 853 3910. Also keep up to date with our latest news by searching ‘RetailAssist’ on Twitter and Instagram. It was a really great day and anything we can do to help raise awareness not only of Robin Hood, but also Nottingham… sign us up.…
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  • 1 Oct 2012
Vue Entertainment outsources IT Support & Service Management to Retail Assist
Vue Entertainment , one of the UK’s premier cinema chains, has outsourced the management of user support and technical service management in its head office and across its 69-strong cinema estate to Retail Assist. It is a milestone for Retail Assist, marking the company’s entry into the leisure sector. Vue employs 3,000 staff, including 100 at its head office. The objective was to establish a single point of contact across the business for everything IT related, and to formalise all elements of service management by means of structured processes and procedures. Observes Vue Entertainment’s IT Director, Roland Jones: “This new partnership with Retail Assist means our staff will no longer need to think about who they need to call for what. With just one team owning all calls, we can look forward to faster problem resolution and better communication.” Prior to engaging the services of Retail Assist, Vue used a third party for 1st-line user support of its Vista software solution whilst support for other IT systems was provided inhouse. Support services needed to be streamlined, both to reflect Vue’s increased reliance upon IT and to optimise the cost-effectiveness of the operation. The decision was made to put both elements of service management out to tender; a process from which Retail Assist emerged as winner. “We couldn’t help but be impressed by Retail Assist’s Help Desk. They are used to supporting some of the UK’s largest retail businesses,” continues Roland Jones. “We also liked their professionalism, energy and enthusiasm.” Retail Assist pulled out all the stops to get the new service up and running speedily. It achieved this in just 5 weeks after securing the contract, well in time to support Vue’s peak trading over the Christmas holiday period. Retail Assist is providing a Retail Service Desk service between 9am and 12am, 364 days a year, covering 1st-line support and incident management. It is also delivering a full IT service management function encompassing problems, service levels and knowledge, together with service asset and configuration management. Retail Assist is the channel for all IT support across the Vue business, and is also assisting in the day-to-day management of third-party suppliers and their service level agreements. Retail Assist owns all support calls until resolution. Using its specialist Retail Service Desk technology, it provides full visibility of support calls, manages required changes and liaises with internal or external teams providing 2nd-line and 3rd-line support for specific hardware, software and services. Retail Assist’s Managed Services Director, Dan Smith, carries ultimate accountability for the success of the new relationship. Excited to see the company move into the leisure sector for the first time, he states: “The critical success factors of this new relationship will be to use our experience to drive down call volumes and fix as many problems as possible at 1st-line. We need to provide Vue with management information that will enable it to more easily manage IT operations across a large and geographically diverse business.”…
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Alan Morris
  • 20 Sep 2007
Achieving supply chain excellence in Retail
By Alan Morris Managing Director of  Retail Assist The supply chain is the foundation of every retail business. Retailers can put distance between themselves and their peers in an increasingly-competitive market by good supply chain management which optimises product sourcing, manufacture, storage and distribution. A good supply chain will reduce operating costs and contribute to customer satisfaction. A poor one will result in a poor business. Not surprisingly, this area remains a major investment priority for UK retailers, albeit semantics play a part in clouding the picture. There is much talk of retailers investing in systems for business planning, buying, merchandising, warehouse management and ecommerce. At the end of the day, they all come down to one and the same thing: they are all, or should be, interdependent elements of what are today’s complex supply chains. The best supply chain solutions have much in common with ERP systems and the characteristics that we associate with them. They provide a single, unified system to cover all elements, integrating processes and providing a source of and repository for common data. This puts an end to dissension between functions, as both the finance people and the merchandisers calculate margins from the same base data, and to differences between financial and unit stock values held by various systems. Just as a single data source makes sense for ERP, so it makes sense for the supply chain. A simple approach works best, with multiple functions sitting on top of a common infrastructure that includes common data. In this scenario, best of breed systems can integrate – rather than merely interface – to create a holistic platform that covers all facets of the supply chain. Multi-channel retailing adds its own complexities and the need to support customer self-service puts an additional strain on the supply chain. Many retailers embarked upon online trading without getting the logistics right. Some bought stock specifically for the online channel, often outsourcing its management which added to their problems. Lessons have now been learnt and many retailers are bringing processes back in house, holding and managing a single stock source themselves and making it available to service all channels. It’s clear that supply chain management is not a trivial undertaking. It is not always implemented well, even by the largest retailers. For those outside the top tier, a unified, all-encompassing supply chain can seem out of reach and available systems over-engineered. This doesn’t stop smaller retailers from aspiring to enjoy the same functionality as their larger peers, but they tend to be put off by cost of acquisition and of employing the skills to optimise and manage the system reliably. For these retailers, the best option is usually a packaged offering which turns a tailored, multi-faceted application into a managed service. This unites the application, skills and hosting into a single solution, within the terms of a single contract. Smaller retailers can then maintain a strategic package at an affordable cost, safe in the knowledge that it will be regularly upgraded…
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