Retail Assist | IT Services and Solutions for Retail & Hospitality
Retail Assist is a leading retail-only solutions and services company. Our IT services and solutions include retail IT outsourcing, global data exchange solution, ‘Merret’ omnichannel supply chain solution, Help Desk and more.
As we move quickly through spring into summer, it is useful to reflect upon some of the good news that is coming our way and also where we are in the two years since the new investment in Retail Assist – and 20 years since Retail Assist began!
Since 2017, we have welcomed 18 new client brands, developed software for the digital growth of retail, have been shortlisted for 11 awards and seen the turnover of Retail Assist grow, which is key to enable us to invest in new solutions and services – something which is of prime importance to our team. Not only this, but we have supported many of our clients through the challenges of the retail industry and have supported them to expand internationally, with 53% of our Help Desk analysts now multilingual, as well as being listed as the global winner of Best Service Desk CX Awards at the Service Desk Industry Awards. A busy couple of years!
Whilst we see long-term customers like Oasis, Warehouse, Karen Millen, Coast, Harvey Nichols and Paperchase continue their partnership with Retail Assist, we have also seen new brands such as Ted Baker and Seasalt join our list of brands supported. We’ve come a long way since our initial support providing managed IT Services to just one brand, to now providing services or software solutions to 49 brands and counting.
The size of our team has also grown to 250 members, with investment in many areas – Client Services, Sales, Training and Development – and new roles to support our future growth in Technical and Desktop Services. We find ourselves with members of the RA team working at the heart of our clients in Karen Millen, Oasis, ASOS, Monsoon Accessorize, amongst others, and delivering services and solutions to 68 countries worldwide in seven languages, including Italian, Spanish, German, French, Swedish, Dutch and English.
But it’s not just our people that are being developed: we’ve been working hard to develop new software for our new brand, OMIO, with the first module, OMIO PIM, being released later this year and a client signed up ready to go with the solution. We are thrilled to support our clients – both old and new – in their future digital growth aspirations. We will also be releasing OMIO Tablet, a solution to enable stores to become mini distribution hubs, allowing store staff to accept online orders to ‘ship from store’ and our own ‘click and collect’ solution, which can be integrated into any ERP solution, all from a simple and user-friendly application.
However, whilst the ambition to grow is important for us to remain a vibrant business, it is also very important to understand what determines our current and future success.
So what is the DNA that runs through the successful Retail Assist team? Taking personal responsibility for the happiness of our clients, challenging ourselves to improve every day so that Retail Assist can better meet the demands of our clients and remembering that we have to be a team of teams across our whole company to be successful.
As we head towards our 20th anniversary, it’s good to remember what defines Retail Assist: our culture.
We come from many backgrounds, have many different skills and levels of experience, and we all know that when we step into the work environment of Retail Assist, we are working with colleagues who will go out of their way to help us to be successful in delivering great services and solutions to our clients.
Thank you all for making a difference – here’s to the next 20 years and the many successes that it will bring.
Having opened as a shirt specialist in 1987, Ted Baker has grown from its original store in Glasgow to the impressive international lifestyle brand it is today.
With stores not only across the United Kingdom but also across the globe, Ted Baker’s impressive store estate – including airports and department stores – continues to provide excellent customer service, no matter what the trading hours.
Ted Baker chose Retail Assist’s IT Help Desk to provide first-line IT services for Ted Baker stores across the UK and Europe, as a single point of contact for all IT-related issues, 7 days a week.
We spoke to Simon Brealy, Global Service Delivery Manager, about why Ted Baker chose Retail Assist and what makes the service we deliver so valuable to their business.
After an RFP process, Ted Baker decided that “Retail Assist was by far and away the best partner for Ted's retail brand”. Explaining what won Retail Assist the RFP, Simon added it was “the financial benefits of moving to a more European-centric partner”.
He said: “Some of the best provision and offerings from Retail Assist were very much around the cost effectiveness, providing us with a 24/7 support function. Something that was critical for Ted Baker was the bilingual support we got from the team.”
Simon explained that the benefit of outsourcing extra IT support has been clear. “Our service desk were looking after many hundreds of office based employees alongside looking after our retail partners. Since partnering with Retail Assist, we've been able to develop what (the service delivery within) Ted's IT delivers; rather than focusing on 1st and 2nd line tickets coming in across our European estate, they're now 100% dealt with by Retail Assist.”
“Because of the standard Retail Assist has delivered to us, my service delivery teams have been able to focus much more on proactively supporting the business and focusing more on the project deliveries, which has in turn had a much more positive impact on the wider business.”
If you’d like to hear more about how we can support your growing business requirements – and save you time and money in the process – then click here or email email@example.com. Want to see more of our customer testimonial series? Click here to visit our YouTube page.
Kate Moss and Topshop. Alexa Chung and M&S. Fearne Cotton and Cath Kidston. For years, celebrities have been teaming up with retailers to design their own, often limited edition, collections. Whilst the celebrity in question gets to add another string to their bow, retailers benefit from tapping into new audiences and engaging customers in a new and exciting way – often with a lot of hype.
However, it’s not just celebrities that are getting in on the action. Increasingly we are seeing more and more collaborations between retailers, as brands are turning to other people with a different market share to work together to conquer the high street.
How do retail collaborations encourage growth?
The ultimate aim of any successful collaboration is that both parties benefit and take advantage of the market the other brings. This might come in the form of filling a gap in the market that previously existed, offering easier access to consumers or providing something strong and definitive that places both retailers far ahead of anything the competition can offer.
An immediate PR boost can be felt by a retail collaboration as attention is drawn to the venture, which can also help with marketing. New contacts can be introduced, fresh and different expertise utilised, and ideas shared or implemented that were previously not possible. Doing things as part of a retail collaboration speeds up processes that may have taken a considerable amount of time. Potential new customers can be found and reached instantly, with all retailers involved in the collaboration being able to bring to the table the information they have collected over their separate trading experiences.
What makes a successful retail collaboration?
Like any successful collaboration, the best retail collaborations are based around shared agendas and aims. Retailers should offer goods that complement each other, but not be competitors, as well as targeting the same – or similar - audience. This means that joint audiences can be targeted and products offered together in a way that satisfies the customer and brings benefits to both retailers. In order for the collaborative process to be smooth, agreement on desired outcomes should be reached, and help brought in with the more practical and technical aspects of the collaboration, on a trading level.
Other retail collaborations have been seen in Topshop Oxford Circus, where everything from pop-up hairdressers and blow-dry bars, nail art beauticians and piercing stations are amongst other brand concessions, giving their customers many different ways to adapt their ‘look’ and the in-store customer experience, all within their store environment.
How can retail collaborations be made easier?
Our Store Systems team take all the hard work of opening new stores away from our customers. Acting as a central point of contact for various different providers, our Store Systems team put the ‘king’ into multi-tasking! Balancing the demands of opening new stores including sourcing hardware, arranging Wi-Fi, access points, liaising with various teams to secure different broadband or DSL lines, meeting with shop fit teams, arranging engineers, Merchant IDs, permits and testing store kit for optimum functionality before it’s installed, what they don’t know about the practicalities of retail systems isn’t worth knowing. With decades of experience, our team also acts as a second line Help Desk which can manage and deal with any complex issues that may occur within the store estate, meaning that any retail collaborations may be made as easy as possible. With customers seeing a seamless transition from concept to reality, our Store Systems team proactively manage all areas of any store opening project, whilst pulling out all the stops to ensure it happens as smoothly as possible, within tight timescales.
Want to hear how our Store Systems team can support your next retail collaboration, store opening or system rollout? Click here or get in touch on (+44) 0115 904 2777.
Retail Assist are delighted to announce that Harvey Nichols are extending their long-standing working relationship.
The contract renewal builds upon an existing relationship with Harvey Nichols, which began in 2004, and sees the partnership develop for another three years.
Using Merret, Retail Assist’s award-winning omnichannel supply chain solution, Harvey Nichols will utilise 2nd line support, as well as 3rd line maintenance support. Retail Assist will also provide technical services that support Merret’s infrastructure whilst working in collaboration with a 3rd party service partner.
Helping customers to shop the brand and not just the channel, Merret is designed and developed for the demands of modern retail as a complete end-to-end software solution. With a central stock pool and single view of stock, Merret helps retailers to improve full-price sales performance, increase profits and provide the best possible customer experience.
Richard Steward, Chief Information Officer at Harvey Nichols, commented on the contract extension: “We are very pleased that we have renewed our partnership with Retail Assist, who provide a vital capability for Harvey Nichols to enable us to serve our customers.
“Retail Assist understand the retail market and so having a clear support and development service in place with them strengthens our customer service proposition.”
Dan Smith, Chief Executive Officer at Retail Assist, concluded: “We are delighted to continue our working relationship with Harvey Nichols. After working together for 15 years, it’s a testimony to the confidence they have in us to help fulfil their omnichannel operations, as well as in our team and our products.”
Held on the 22nd May 2019 at the East Midlands Conference Centre, hundreds of people gathered to celebrate the best Nottingham companies and their individual successes over the last year.
This year, we were thrilled to win the Sales and Marketing Award and to be a finalist for the Customer Service Excellence Award.
Sponsors for each category were responsible for choosing three finalists, with one overall winner. The Sales and Marketing Award was sponsored by Stirland Paterson and the judges praised our ‘impressive results, thanks to (Retail Assist’s) dynamic and forward-thinking strategies’.
Alex Broxson, Head of Marketing said: “We are absolutely delighted with the award win. The Sales and Marketing team has continued its progression and seen a fantastic year of growth. We have brought in 18 new clients over the last 18 months, had a substantial increase in PR, website visitors and lead generation. Everything we do is geared towards business growth, so it’s great to see that coming to fruition and win the award which recognises the hard work and effort that goes into everything that we do”.
Announcing the winner, Group HR Director, Julia Stirland, said: “This is our fourth year of sponsoring the Sales and Marketing Award. Every year, the entries have got better and better, making our job very difficult to pick a winner. But this year’s very worthy winner is Retail Assist.”
Renato Pastorino, Chief Commercial Officer, said: “I’m immensely proud of the team for the achievements and results they have generated for the business, and that this has been recognised by winning the award. We are continuing to grow and bring in some impressive client brands. Sales and Marketing is very much one team for us and this is demonstrated by the connectedness of campaigns, our approach and resulting new business that is generated by the team. Well done to the team and everyone who was shortlisted at the awards.”
Along with this, we were also finalists for the hotly contended Customer Service Excellence Award, a new category implemented this year. With an overwhelming number of businesses who had applied, we were delighted to have reached the final three as testament to the consistent levels of customer service that our teams deliver every day.
The UK’s first coffee shop was opened in Oxford in 1652: walk down any UK high street today and you’re bound to come across at least one. However, with so much competition – both from chains and local establishments alike – what does it take to grow in an otherwise busy market?
This week, we continue our video mini-series on what can be learned from independent businesses as we speak to Matt Douglas, Marketing Manager for 200 Degrees. Originally starting as a roast house, the brand expanded and now have eight shops around the country, including Nottingham, Birmingham, Leeds, Cardiff and Sheffield.
Offering a mixture of both hospitality and with retail areas within their store estate, 200 Degrees serves great coffee in stylish surroundings.
Matt explains: “We started off as roast house originally, then added our shops to showcase our coffee products. The shops were turned into an experience all of their own and really transform people's perceptions (of a coffee shop).”
So what’s 200 Degrees’ differentiator? Matt says: “We engage all the time with people around us. We run several different types of activities and events or experiences; we’ve got a barista school upstairs (in the Nottingham flagship store) and we're also looking at opening up our roast house to show how it goes from a raw bean to what you enjoy.
“We really want people to have an (excellent) experience every time they come into the store, from the moment they’re greeted...all the way to sitting down by the fire. It's an escapism.”
What advice would Matt give to larger chains? He says: “I think keep what you do simple and easy for the customer to understand: it needs to be that frictionless experience. It is the meeting and greeting people at the door – a really small thing, but making sure it's positively done and welcoming. Also, all the in-store events do give another reason to come to the high street other than beyond (just) drinking a coffee.
“We are going through a growth phrase and we are learning and understanding how difficult it is (to stay true to the brand whilst growing). But one of our key values is to make sure we retain that community aspect and that focus on the experience.”
Watch Matt’s video to see more insights into how 200 Degrees approach their store strategy and don’t forget to subscribe to our YouTube channel here to stay up-to-date with our latest video releases.
A lot has changed in the last twenty years. Fears of the Millennium Bug, dial-up connection and memorising phone numbers were the status quo and the concept of being on the phone AND on the internet at the same time would have been mind-boggling!
However, 20 years ago, employing staff once meant a body of workers confined to one location, yet recent years have seen increasing amounts of businesses in all sectors adopt new working methods. The rise of secure Wi-Fi connection and laptop technology has meant that remote and flexible options are now commonplace and have widened talent pools to provide benefits to employers and employees alike.
The biggest attraction of IT Managed Services is the ability to tap into specialised expertise and knowledge which is sector specific and may not be available within your own company. Whilst many IT experts may have a broad knowledge that covers many areas, finding those that have very specific skills and awareness of exactly what is needed in terms of the IT used in each individual industry can sometimes be challenging. Using IT Managed Services ensures that such expertise is easily accessible when required, without the time, effort or cost of recruitment, whilst also safeguarding against the threat of in-house experts leaving their current positions to go elsewhere.
Costs are crucial to every business, no matter what the sector. IT Managed Services can help make significant cost savings, primarily by removing the associated staffing costs that hiring additional staff brings; office space may also be saved or utilised more effectively. Direct employees are able to focus on more value-adding activity, whist your outsourced teams take care of the day-to-day running of the business. Naturally, fluctuations in workload often occur in IT, so having a dedicated IT Managed Services team allows you to utilise the resource capabilities of the external team to your advantage to increase or decrease with market demands and your own teams can still focus on other important matters.
Long-term and Proactive Approaches
As IT lies at the centre of many businesses, having a system that operates reliably and without interruption is incredibly important. By using IT Managed Services, a proactive approach can be taken, which can allow problems to be foreseen and reacted to before they occur. Long-term strategies can be implemented, with the option for IT services to feature increased activity when needed, such as if a new project is due to launch. Expanded workloads can be reacted to in a way that is productive and doesn’t impact on efficiency.
Flexibility is Possible
Managed IT Services can be fully integrated with existing working practices, meaning that they can fit in and complement how a business chooses to operate. This gives a flexible approach that will grow and develop as the levels of IT support require changes over time. Those looking to move into new areas and utilise new working methods or ideas can do so with total assurance that the IT help needed can be provided and that any expansion they are planning can be fully staffed and supported. Reassurance can also be given by IT Managed Services having all the up-to-date technology needed to assist, at no cost or hassle to the business they are servicing.
Conferences, stands, thousands of visitors and, of course, the obligatory appearance from Pepper the Robot – it can only be RetailEXPO!
Held at the Olympia London over two days, RetailEXPO unites Retail Business Technology Expo (RBTE), Retail Design Expo (RDE) and Retail Digital Signage Expo (RDSE) to represent all things in the world of retail and ecommerce. And this year, ‘customer experience’ were the words on everyone’s lips.
We spotted two brilliant applications to combine online and in-store shopping experiences. Near Street uses a retailer’s high street inventory to drive traffic, ushering people to locate products in their locality. As an effective way of getting people to visit their local high street, it’s currently in use in shops as far as Orkney. Similarly, Mercaux’s app uses tablets to help sales associates to make outfit recommendations, offers automated alternatives and styling suggestions, aiding the sales associate to increase a brand’s offering, all whilst standing next to the customer.
In another way, CloudCasting uses mirror displays to show digital content. Their smart mirrors have a digital screen hidden behind the mirror, as retailers can update communications that are reflected out to display adverts or promotions to customers.
The interrogation of the customer experience and what modern retailers must offer was reflected in the conference, too. Andy Murray, Asda’s Chief Customer Officer, took to the main stage to discuss their approach to customer improvement, especially when working with the scale and legacy that Asda holds.
He explained that there are “millions of opportunities to get it (the customer experience) wrong and lots of complexity to work through to get it right”. After starting his role in February 2016, Andy and his team took their approach back to basics by asking: what is the real customer value proposition? For Asda, that meant helping busy customers save money and live better and to move away from distinct customer stereotypes that had been shown in historical Asda TV adverts.
For Andy, his view of a customer is very simple. He said: “Anyone who puts food in their mouths and eats is my customer!”
For more of our retail technology reflections, subscribe to our YouTube channel here.
Shakespeare famously asked ‘What’s in a name?’ and we reckon he might have been onto something.
RetailEXPO, previously known as Retail Business Technology Expo – or RBTE – might have undergone a name change, but it’s the same innovation-centred expo that previous visitors will know and love. This year, we’ll be walking the floor to give you an insight to the Expo.
As one of Europe’s leading events for retail technology, RetailEXPO unifies three of the UK’s retail shows: Retail Business Technology Expo (RBTE), Retail Design Expo (RDE) and Retail Digital Signage Expo (RDSE). Split over two days (1st and 2nd May 2019) at the Olympia, London, it promises to be a showcase for all things retail and we’re excited to see what the new format will deliver.
Alex Broxson, Head of Marketing, and Anna Murphy, Communications Executive, will be on hand to deliver the top highlights, right from the show floor. Here’s a taster of our recap from last year’s event:
Frosted, glazed, jam or chocolate: however you enjoy yours, we know a store that’s got the perfect one for you. We continue our video mini-series, as we look at what larger retailers and hospitality vendors can learn from their independent counterparts, talking to Wade Smith, Director of Doughnotts.
Along with his business partner and Co-Director, Megan Scaddan, Wade started Doughnotts in 2015. From humble origins in a family kitchen and starting with just £10 and a wok, the pair grew the brand from a doughnut delivery service to their first doughnut bar in Nottingham. And we’re not just talking any old doughnut; with themes, seasonal products and treat-laden doughnut rings, their products look as good as they taste.
With further stores now in Derby and Leicester, and new stores planned to open in Nottingham and Lincoln this year, the duo have had to change and adapt their retail strategy to fit customer demand.
So what can larger retailers learn from Doughnotts? Wade argues that retailers should listen to their customers, be ready to adapt and to keep it simple.
Wade explained: “The concept of our stores has changed three times now. So (the first store in Nottingham) was a takeaway, then we opened a sit-in place in Derby, then when we opened Leicester, we thought ‘right, we need to go back to a takeaway.’”
“However, we are changing our concept of in-store again. With the new store that's opening in Nottingham, there's going to be an in-store bakery so that you're going to be able to come in and see a baker making doughnuts there and then.”
Doughnotts also has a loyal social media following with an impressive 50,500 Instagram followers. But rather than over-complicating things, when it comes to a social media strategy, Wade also prefers a straight-forward approach.
He explained: “So for growing Instagram, we were basically just posting every day. It was talking back to customers and sharing customers’ photos. We have a very, very Instagram-able product: Instagram was made for this!”
If you’d like to see more videos in our high street retailer mini-series, subscribe to our YouTube channel here.