IT services and solutions for retail and hospitality

  • 24 Mar 2014

Interview with our Head of Product Strategy – Views on Retail

We’ve been speaking to our Head of Product Strategy, Robin Coles, about his views on retailing, his role at Retail Assist and information regarding some of the latest developments  regarding our supply chain solution Merret.

1. During your time working in retail, what are the most dramatic and effective developments you have seen?

Developments began with the barcode, which for the first time enabled accurate stock to be kept, as the accuracy and timeliness of data was dramatically improved. This lead to the centralisation of key buying and merchandising functions, enabling retailers to expand their business without a straight line increase in cost.

Latterly we have moved from a single channel (stores) to multiple channels (stores + e-commerce) to today’s omnichannel world. Essentially this has put the customer in charge of the relationship with the retailer, before that it was the retailer who controlled the relationship deciding what they would offer to customers, as opposed to now being forced to offer the customer service options that the customer wants. Essentially this has made the retail world much more competitive, costly to do business in, yet with many more opportunities for new entrants. Typically the traditional retailers have struggled to compete as their infrastructure is either not capable of supporting these new options, or far too costly to change. Clearly new entrants have no infrastructure to change, so are able to start with the options that today’s customers want.

Essentially today’s focus is about stock accuracy and systems that can enable a sale to be made at any point, to any customer and for the system to promise the delivery options available, and to keep that promise.

2. What are the latest Retail Assist developments that you have been working on that can facilitate these changes in the retail world?

Stock accuracy is vital, so the use of Android/tablet technologies in-store gives a modern and low cost method of managing the various transactions required to improve the accuracy and timeliness of stock. In addition such devices can be used for multiple applications, unlike previous generations of Hand Held terminals. Example of these include; access to the company intranet, training documentation, email and assisted selling applications. We are seeing the movement away from fixed point till systems, to a more flexible point of service environment, based on devices that everyone is used to using, as they are essentially big phones.

3. How does your background help you in your role at Retail Assist?

I have been on the supplier side for 30 years and have worked with numerous retailers, in multiple sectors. Whilst the requirements across the sectors are fairly common, each individual sector (for example fashion or footwear) has its own unique requirements. My experience across these sectors provides an in-depth knowledge of multiple technology platforms and databases, and enables me to provide a strategic focus for Retail Assist.

4. How do you think omnichannel affects what we do here at Retail Assist?

Omnichannel is at the core of everything we do, retailers come to us for system most normally because there current offering either cannot give them the Omni-channel offerings they need to remain competitive, or the cost of changing their current system to provide these is prohibitive.

5. How does Merret differ from other supply chains?

Our reputation for delivery means that people buy from us. Our target clients tend to be Tier 2 fashion retailers, who are looking for a medium sized company who can be as flexible as they want to be.  Many other supply chain solutions are not built specifically to deal with fashion, but instead are more generic in their management of stock.  We find that fashion retailing has specific requirements, and so the solution fits this area of retailing particularly well.

The way in which Merret fulfils stock is also different to other solutions.  Despite a retailer having multiple channels, Merret fulfils stock from a single stock pool, providing the retailer with a single view of stock regardless of channel.  Therefore, wherever a customer requires product from Merret will look into the central stock availability and source it from the most efficient location.

With the growing global requirements Merret is multicurrency and can deal with multiple time zones for pricing deals.  This is giving buyers and merchandisers the best opportunity to get products in the right place at the right time at the right price, providing customers with the chance to buy anything from anywhere at anytime.

If you would like to know any more about the above, please contact us on or 0115 853 3910.

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