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Black Friday
  • 23 Nov

Black Friday 2015: the countdown is on

The countdown is on: Black Friday is just 4 days away. New figures released this morning by Visa Europe predict that Brits will spend £1.9 billion on Black Friday 2015: that’s £83m every hour, £1.4m every minute and £23,000 every second. It’s already been a turbulent start at either end of the spectrum: shock news of Asda’s veto 2 weeks ago was followed by retailer uncertainty regarding participation. Then, last Friday, Argos’ deals launch was tarnished by an embarrassing website crash (again).Oops… Now more than ever, it’s essential for retailers to prepare fully for the festive season, to ensure that even at the busiest times, trading is uninterrupted by issues, and the customer experience remains seamless. Black Friday and the birth in discount mentality has meant that retailers no longer experience a steady stream of Christmas trading. 60% of shoppers time their purchases around sales (Conlumino 2014), a mentality that is harming retailers’ sell through of full price stock. This October, sales fell year on year, as consumers “hold off” for November. After Black Friday, there’s now a lull – 62% of shoppers we surveyed use Black Friday to buy Christmas gifts, leaving a smaller stream of Christmas shoppers in early November and December. The store still plays a critical role in the festive shopping experience, and as well as a robust ecomm platform to cope with unprecedented demand, the same measures need to be taken in store.Take queueing, for example: 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? At Christmas, increased demand means a busy store is inevitable, but making customer service more efficient should be a number one priority. Till down-time and queueing are real but avoidable issues, if you have the correct service provision in place. Our Help Desk experts are experienced in front line retail service, and understand the true impact of issues such as 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. Great customer service is not just for Christmas. You can download our How To Guide: Preparing for Peak Trading, tomorrow. To opt in to receive it by email, just hit the subscribe button at the top of this page.…
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Black Friday 2015
  • 16 Nov

Vlog: Is the Black Friday model a sustainable approach to UK retailing?

In a shock turn of Black Friday events, retail giant Asda announced it’d be pulling out of this year’s proceedings. Arguably, as the Walmart-owned brand that first introduced the annual US tradition to the UK in 2013, Asda’s decision to refrain is a bold one. But, as our Head of Marketing explains in today’s vlog, is crippling annual Black Friday demand a sustainable model for UK retailers? Will others persevere with fulfilling customer expectations for mega discounting? Or will more retailers shy away from Black Friday?…
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selfridges oxford street
  • 9 Nov

The changing role of the retail flagship: part II

As a development of our first retail flagship blog, we wanted to analyse current flagship redevelopments in retail, and what this might say about the contemporary in-store shopping experience. Oasis Our customer Oasis has undergone a flagship relocation project, from the recently refitted and latest store design ‘House of Oasis’ on Argyll Street, to a new concept store on Tottenham Court Road. The new flagship opens this week, in time for the run up to Christmas.The store complements an innovative shopping experience totalling 3,200sqft, with an in-store café, prosecco bar, and hair & nail salon – the first of its kind in the UK. Hash Ladha, chief operating officer at Oasis, said the new concept was designed to increase customer dwell time in-store “by giving shoppers a full customer experience”. The redevelopment is definitely concerned with providing more than just a shopping experience, offering leisure-focussed spaces that reflect the nature of the brand. Sipping a coffee and getting a manicure is an extension of the brand profile, ‘something Oasis customers might be’. The refit and opening process of the new store is being managed and supported by Retail Assist’s in-house Store Systems and Store Development teams. You can read more about our specialist retail IT support and project management services here. Selfridges Selfridges is another example of the ‘big London flagship’ working wonders in the lead up to the key Christmas selling period. Being the first store to unveil their iconic Christmas windows this year, their annual Destination Christmas concept is visually stunning, playing on an astrological zodiac theme to embody a ‘Journey to the Stars’. No wonder the department store was crowned winner of Retail Week’s Top of The Shops. It’s no mean feat on Oxford Street, with tough competition where visual merchandising is concerned.Selfridges’ flagship still functions as the pinnacle of the brand’s identity. It’s as relevant now, as it was in 1909. As Selfridges’ Managing Director, Anne Pitcher, said in a recent interview with Retail Week (4:30): “It’s most importantly where we celebrate our DNA, and unify our creative themes from that customer experience of looking into the windows, coming into the store, and seeing great themes reflected throughout the building.”Jaeger However, evidence that a traditional, large flagship store in London might not work for all brands is evidenced by Jaeger’s latest move. Last week it was announced that their flagship on Regent St, which has been occupied by the luxury British brand for 80 years, is soon to be taken by US lifestyle brand, Coach. Colin Henry, former Chief Executive of Jaeger, previously explained in an interview with Drapers that a smaller flagship unit would be better aligned with Jaeger’s brand identity: “In modern day retailing I don’t need a 27,500 sq ft store. It’s like a department store; we have to generate so much product to fill it”. As Jaeger looks to invest more in its online strategy, the move away from a larger flagship also falls in line with its ecommerce push.…
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retail IT support
  • 30 Oct

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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Mademoiselle Prive
  • 26 Oct

Mademoiselle Privé: The Free Chanel Exhibition

Earlier this month, we watched in awe over social media as the Chanel Airlines SS16 fashion show took place in Paris. Watching this event unfold over our favourite celebrities’ Instagram and Twitter feeds, we couldn’t help but say – “we wish we were there!” Thus when Mademoiselle Privé was announced to open in London as a free exhibition, we couldn’t have been more excited to be part of it. Yesterday, we attended the beautiful Chanel Mademoiselle Privé exhibition at the Saatchi Gallery in London. The spectacular star-studded opening party took place on October 12th, where the likes of Cara Delevingne and Julianne Moore graced the exhibition. Mademoiselle Privé showcases the stunning work of head designer and creative director of the fashion house, Karl Lagerfeld, as well as taking you on a journey through the work and lifestyle of Mademoiselle Chanel herself.There’s no better setting for this iconic expo than the Saatchi Gallery, located in Chelsea. Just last month we were invited to go there for London Fashion Weekend, which we thoroughly enjoyed! After waltzing into the ticket-only LFWEnd event at the gallery last month, we were stunned to see the colossal queue of around 400 people for the Mademoiselle Privé free event. ‘Exclusive’, ‘luxurious’, and ‘quintessentially French’ are all connotations of the Chanel brand. Therefore, ‘a free Chanel exhibition open to the public’, does seem a bit of an odd juxtaposition. However, this accessibility is what has made this event so popular, and is a testament to Chanel’s humble beginnings, and wide social reach in the early 20th century. Each room in the Saatchi Gallery has its very own Chanel theme. There is a perfume room called the Chanel No5 laboratory, which experiments with the alchemy of the revolutionary and mysterious composition of Chanel No5. Another room is an 18th century French garden, inspired by the iconic intertwined C motif that is the brand’s signature. Gabrielle Chanel first saw this C motif in a stained-glass window in the orphanage where she lived as a child. In addition, there is a small cinema room showcasing a short-film of Karl Lagerfeld himself acting beside ‘Gabrielle Chanel’.Perhaps the most impressive room was the Haute Couture and Photography rooms on the second floor. Haute Couture embodies the spirit of Chanel, and demonstrates the tradition, attention to detail, quality and perfection of Chanel. The Photography room displays the likes of Rita Ora, Lily-Rose Depp, Kiera Knightley and many more wearing the haute couture pieces. All the photos were captured by Karl Lagerfeld.Embroidery, flower making and Chanel No5 olfactive workshops run throughout the day for those who really want to immerse themselves into the world of Chanel. Also, a Mademoiselle Privé app is available to download to your phone. You can use this throughout the expo to have an interactive, self-guided tour experience. And as you leave the expo, you’ll be handed a complimentary Mademoiselle Privé tote bag (perfect for avoiding those 5p plastic bag charges)! It’s the final week of the exhibition in London, and we would definitely recommend it if you’re in the area. Opening…
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BF 1
  • 19 Oct

Black Friday: Are You Ready?

Have you noticed the chill in the air recently? It’s the bated breath of retailers across the world as they brace themselves for the overwhelming consumer demand riding on the wave of Black Friday. Dramatic, but perhaps a necessary introduction: this year, it’s set to be even bigger, with the media latching onto the current prediction that November 27th could be the UK’s first ever £1billion shopping day. With just 6 weeks to go until Black Friday, here’s a few useful facts to start with: When is Black Friday 2015? 27th November How much did Black Friday make in 2014? $50.9 billion was spent during the 4 day Black Friday weekend worldwide in 2014. How much did Brits splash out online during Black Friday 2014? An estimated £810m, according to internet retail experts IMRG. This was an increase of 74% on 2013 figures. We have also examined the consumer sentiment around Black Friday in a recent Retail Assist survey. Check out the response in our infographic below (and don’t forget you can share with it with the embed code).  With just over half of respondents planning to buy something on Black Friday (59%), it might seem that the pre-event demand is on the low side, given the current £1bn predictions. However, this figure doesn’t take into account the amount of impulse buyers (potentially the remaining 41%), who may on the day decide to purchase in the face of rock-bottom prices. And it’s this “unpredictable” demand that caught the majority of retailers out last year (recall those day-long website blackouts, fatal supply chain breakdowns, and logistics nightmares?) In terms of the winter shopping season, Black Friday is still the premier shopping event, with 53% of people saying it’s their preferred discount shopping event. 36% prefer the New Year Sales, with a small 11% opting for Boxing Day, previously a well-established tradition in the retail calendar. Perhaps the most interesting majority is the massive 70% of respondents planning to shop Black Friday goods online, compared to just 30% in-store. This means that retailers will need to provide a faultless ecomm experience, and take preventative measures to ensure websites don’t go down. Apart from considerations of the scale of the event, many are wondering what else will be different this year. As retail IT specialists, we’re interested in the lessons learned from last year regarding supply chain resilience, including fulfilment and delivery promises. Some retailers, including Oasis, have announced plans to scale down this year, focussing on 100% fulfilment of the customer promise for a better brand experience, rather than over-exert and under-deliver. We might expect to see more social interaction in real-time from retailers updating customers on orders, to improve the customer experience further. Deliveries might experience a different slant this year; new click-and-collect charges could decrease consumer demand for delivery to store. However, omnichannel must still be a priority, as consumers expect the same Black Friday brand experience online as they would in-store, with a full range of order and…
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  • 12 Oct

Personalisation in Retail

Personalisation has been a retail buzzword for a while now, but after reading Retail Week’s in-depth Personalisation Feature, a thought-provoking collection of recent case studies revealed that retailers are now engaging with personalisation in technologically sophisticated ways. Consumers’ expectations of personalisation are on the rise too, with a recent survey revealing that 77% expect a retailer’s website to display products and offers that appeal to their tastes.Personalisation in retail is allowing retailers to engage with the consumer on a more intimate level, providing a customer experience that strengthens the relationship between the brand and the individual. Using data captured from purchase history, social media, and buying behaviour, retailers can use a consumer’s likes, dislikes and demographic information, to tailor targeted marketing campaign material in order to encourage more purchases. In-store, this hinges on beacons: low-cost, location-based technology that uses Bluetooth for communicating with beacon-enabled devices. For example, if a consumer has a mobile enabled with a retailers’ app, the retailer can then push tailored notifications, vouchers and discounts to the device when the customer is near, or in, the store. Data profiling is being used in various ways in-store, perhaps even bordering on “creepy” (Retail Week). Facial recognition technology teamed with beacons can deliver highly personalised experiences, yet 73% of consumers say that it would be “creepy” if a retailer used facial recognition technology to target advertisements on digital screens based on their gender and age. Some consumers evidently aren’t ready for data capture in this form. However, despite the “futuristic” terminology surrounding new retail practices, the personalisation buzzword has made us think about the similarities with the “traditional” experience. 50 years ago, when the bricks-and-mortar store was the only shopping “channel”, you’d have a very similar experience. The shop assistant would greet a loyal, regular customer by name, and remember their previous purchases. They’d be able to make recommendations based on what the customer has liked in the past, and interact at the appropriate level. The only difference that 2015 personalisation holds, is that it can be applied across all channels, not only by a sales assistant in-store, but conveyed through the website, in mailing material, and mobile alerts. Also, it’s collated in technologically advanced and subtle ways, rather than through human interaction alone. If there’s anything for retailers to learn here, it’s that the crux of this kind of retailing remains the same: the customer experience must be at the heart.…
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IT Help Desk
  • 5 Oct

IT Service Week 2015: Vote for our Help Desk!

This week, we’re participating in the Service Desk Institute’s IT Service Week, running from 5th to 9th October. It’s a great chance to showcase our Help Desk for providing brilliant support to our customers 24 x 7 x 365.There’s also a prize and trophy up for grabs from the SDI, so we’re encouraging our Help Desk customers to vote for us to become the Top IT Service Desk of 2015, by filling in this quick 2 minute survey: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/VR2ZRFB. So, what are the top 5 reasons you should vote for our IT Help Desk to be Top IT Service Desk? 1) Our Help Desk is UK based, at our Head Office Support Centre in Nottingham, but our multilingual call analysts speak 7 languages and support over 200 international stores. We are supporting our customers in French, Spanish, Italian, German, Polish, Portuguese and Hungarian. Our customer Karen Millen experienced a 55% reduction in problem resolution time overseas just 6 months after using our dedicated multilingual service. 2) Our unique service provision benefits from call analysts with front-line retail and hospitality experience. They understand our customers’ problems first hand, and how critical the impact of issues like till downtime can be. We’re supporting big retail and hospitality brands such as Vue Cinemas, Cath Kidston, Karen Millen and more. 3) 24 x 7 x 365  support: customers are truly supported around the clock for peace of mind that their systems are up and running when they need it most. This not only means that out of hours and non-standard trading hours are covered, but global time difference is also no issue. 4) We provide a single point of contact, for 100% visibility of IT issues from one single source, regardless of where they are throughout your business. Our customers experience faster resolution times due to this trusted and transparent relationship. 5) Perhaps our proudest asset to date: we were an SDI Awards Finalist in our first year of entering this year, for the category of Best Managed Service Desk. We’re looking forward to next year’s Awards after implementing continual improvements to our service levels, and the accolade is important to us as an industry body that we set our standards by. The title of Top IT Service Desk during IT Service Week would mean a lot to our teams. Of course, it wouldn’t be fun without prizes! So, over the course of the week, we’ll be closely monitoring our SLAs, and rewarding the teams who have the lowest average ring time, and have closed the most incidents. As part of the celebrations we will also end the week with “Pizza Hut Friday” to say “thank you” to the whole team, getting in pizzas for all on the Help Desk to enjoy for their hard work and 24×7. If you’re a customer of our Help Desk, or want to nominate a service desk superhero, just follow this link to a quick 2 minute survey https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/VR2ZRFB  – it would mean a lot to the team. Many thanks, and…
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  • 28 Sep

London Fashion Weekend 2015: Best Bits

Yesterday, our Marketing team was lucky enough to attend the closing day of The British Fashion Council’s London Fashion Weekend, held at the Saatchi Gallery in London. It was a glamorous affair to say the least, with more fashionistas than you could shake a Fendi pom pom at.Here’s our round-up of the best bits from the day, featuring expert talks, catwalks, and three packed floors of designer previews. 1) Blogger Talks: Becoming a Blogger with The Frugality (Alex Stedman), The Edited (Erica Davies) and The Lifestyle Edit (Naomi Mdudu).  From a Marketing perspective, probably the most interesting part of the day. Three inspirational women gave their expert opinions on everything blog related, covering topics such as gifting a blogger, how to create an authentic voice, the correct use of the hashtag, and the best photo editing tools (“are Instagram filters uncool?” – collective response: yes) In the blogging arena, the digital age has certainly given writers something to measure themselves by, given that the influence of blogging has become quantifiable. If an influential blogger posts a photo of some ASOS shoes for example, and then those shoes are bought 250 times in one day, the retail data can’t lie. Digital marketing in the form of blogging is one step closer to pinning down measurable KPIs, which means the profession has a more lucrative feel than before. SEO was also covered (if you’re not familiar, see “Google search monopoly”). In a nutshell, if your written online content is good enough, original, and has a consistent voice, visitors will come. SEO must be supplementary, rather than a traffic driver. Perhaps the thought shared most strongly by all three women: growing Instagram followers must be a new priority, as a new wave of Instabloggers (relying on the social medium, hashtags, and photography) use the photo sharing platform to act as their blog, rather than supplying written content as well. Instagram is a big influencer amongst the blogging audience. Analysis of social media activity throughout London Fashion Week proves this to be true. Some of the key findings, pulled together by eConsultancy, revealed that designers such as Topshop, Burberry, and Vivienne Westwood performed very well across social networks.Burberry’s Twitter handle (@Burberry) was mentioned the most of any designer, followed by Topshop (@topshop) and Julien Macdonald (@JulienMacdonald). Topshop had the most Instagram engagement, tallying up over 1.8m likes and comments on its Instagram posts. Burberry had the largest audience growth on Instagram, with nearly 74,000 new followers thanks to London Fashion Week.2) Catwalk: Christopher RaeburnWe were honoured to watch the final catwalk of the day, the outerwear collection from British fashion designer Christopher Raeburn, also GQ’s “Breakthrough Designer” Man of the Year. The contemporary collection pictured below is inspired by his “Remade in England” concept, sourcing redundant military fabrics, such as parachutes, to redesign and construct innovative, sustainable “hi-vis”uals.  3) Designer floors Check out our Go Pro stills across the 3 floors of designer pop-ups, ready to wear collections,…
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out of town retail
  • 21 Sep

The changing face of out of town retail

The increasing importance of the store in the omnichannel retail world has taken centre stage in the past few weeks. Recent research has revealed that 73% of EU retailers expect the store to become more strategically important by 2020, a statistic that includes every type of store: flagship, city centre, market town, shopping centre, and out of town retail parks. “Out of town” doesn’t mean “out of mind” for big retailers. With the dawn of omnichannel retailing came a crucial need for retailers to re-evaluate the role of the store in the overall customer experience, with each store needing to play its part in emanating the brand. Over the years, out of town retail parks had received a bad image – “big box” units, “retail sheds”, nothing compared to their jazzy city centre counterparts, or websites, for that matter. Now, market leading retailers are giving more careful consideration to architecture and design, and use of internal space, to create a bold, attractive and interesting place to shop and spend leisure time. Next recently featured in Retail Week for its Longwater Retail Park store in Norwich; a prime example of a store re-writing the usual rules of edge-of-town retail architecture with a clever and intricate use of space that belies the vast blueprint. The store is also fitted out with a Costa Coffee, a good example of current retailer-hospitality collaborations which provide complimentary offers for the overall benefit of the customer experience.Digging a bit deeper, and considering the technology that underpins the store, what’s interesting to analyse are the subtle, but crucial, differences between city stores and retail parks. How does the space work, how is in-store tech used, how does the store operate in the supply chain? (i.e. is it a critical ship-from-store unit?; is click-and-collect a big operation?) Consumers have different demands of stores in different locations, meaning stores require different attributes in order to maintain a high retail conversion rate. A city centre store might be more inundated with click-and-collect orders in the week, for the working demographic that would rather pick up their order on their lunch break. Alternatively, a retail park might see more activity like this at a weekend, when trips out are planned to enjoy a leisurely shopping experience visiting different brands. The use of in-store tech (such as tablets to browse the web and make orders) might also command a different use in different locations – in busier stores where staff might not be as readily available, customers might prefer the convenience of ordering in-store themselves. These nuances are considerations that retailers must bear in mind when differentiating the store experience. As much as we have blogged about making the store a crucial channel in the customer journey, further consideration should be given to different types of store and what makes them successful. If you’re considering a transformation of your out of town retail store portfolio, or any part of your store estate, our project-focussed retail IT support can help. We are…
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