Italian company Autogrill, the worlds premier provider of food, beverage and retail services for travellers, acquired Alpha Group in 2007 and World Duty Free in 2008. It recently integrated the two operations into a new retail brand named WDF, which is the UKs market leader. WDF operates some 60 stores at airports UK-wide, with its largest occupying 2,600 sq metres of selling space in Heathrows Terminal 5. The brand portfolio includes World Duty Free, Biza, Alpha Airport Shopping and Glorious Britain.
As part of its Improving Customer Experience (ICE) project, WDF decided to upgrade its EPoS to a new-generation platform, which would deliver rapid customer service and enable fast-paced and transparent product replenishment. Having chosen Retail-J, the retailers challenge was to roll out the system to its complete store estate: 60 World Duty Free-branded department and specialist stores totalling more than 250 tills, in 12 UK airport terminals. Rollout had to be completed within three months, which included the Easter peak trading period.
The project also addressed complexities such as controlling the sale of duty-free products, processing multi-currency transactions, Dynamic Currency Conversion and faster transaction times. Significant advancements were also planned with the introduction of automated global flight lookup and electronic reading of boarding cards at the point-of-sale. All these elements were important in ensuring that time-constrained customers could make purchases comfortably and quickly.
WDF decided to outsource the front-line IT Help Desk services, covering both 1st- and 2nd-level telephone support, to all its duty-free stores across the UK. It looked for a supplier with experience in supporting its retail systems and applications.
For the Retail-J EPoS software, pivotal to the success of WDFs operations, WDF also looked for round-the-clock, proactive monitoring of the architecture to maximise resilience and operating performance.
Consultancy on the Retail-J and Oracle environments was an additional requirement, as were support for the JDA interface and coordination of partner activity. Finally, support was needed for the Sony digital signage hardware and software that is an integral part of WDFs Heathrow Terminal 5 operation.
Why Retail Assist
Dan Smith, Managed Services Director at Retail Assist, is responsible for the WDF relationship. He explains: As UK retailing continues to move towards a 24 x 7 trading model, the demand to provide extended hours of support to stores is on the increase.
Tim Howse, Head of Retail IT Systems for WDF, describes why Retail Assist is a natural partner for his company. Retail Assists retail and technical understanding are second to none. Its staff combine real-life retail experience and technical skills. They have an excellent reputation for working with solution partners, and are very experienced in supporting both the Retail-J application and leading department stores such as Harvey Nichols and Selfridges.
Retail Assist completed the required consultancy and constructed a project plan to transition all stores and brands transitioned to a new infrastructure and the Retail-J application. It then set up its own internal systems, ready to take on WDF as a managed Help Desk client.
Support Desk up and running in 3 weeks
Retail Assists Project Services Manager, Kevin Greathead, was responsible for the support contract. As he explains, the project was phased in three stages. We completed the transition of all Biza and Glorious Britain stores, then the World Duty Free stores moved to a new networking infrastructure provided by Autogrill. The final phase was to implement Retail-J into the transitioned Tax & Duty Free stores.
All the brands and stores of the combined group went live within the defined project timescales. Tim Howse praises Retail Assist for rising to the challenge: Close cooperation between project teams and total focus on the part of Retail Assists Support Services and Store Systems teams got the Support Desk up and running in 3 weeks. It was a great achievement.
WDF started to enjoy real benefits from the earliest point. After only one month, there was a 53% reduction in 3rd-line support calls. Elimination of merchandising pricing issues and better communication between IT and Customer Service leaders have been two further positive outcomes of the new relationship.
Continues Howse: Retail Assists responsive service resulted in the improved in-store customer experience that was the goal of our ICE project. Customers queue to check in, to pass through security and to board their plane. We were determined to play our part in reducing queuing time whilst in our stores and providing our customers with great service. That calls for exceptional systems backed up by faultless service. Together, WDF and Retail Assist staff are delivering that.
Observes Dan Smith: For WDF, we have created a Help Desk which enables retailers to tap into an all-hours retail and IT support desk, at a much lower cost of developing the same service in-house.
Support services extended
Some nine months later, as WDF had consolidated all its EPoS operations into Retail-J, it extended its contract with Retail Assist. This now includes 1st line support for all stores in the portfolio where the application has been installed.
WDFs UK CIO, Martin Cook, concludes: Retail Assist was the obvious choice, given success with our World Duty Free brand. The companys done a sterling job for Alpha Airport Shopping, Biza and Glorious Britain stores and weve been impressed by their professionalism and project management. We see our partnership going from strength to strength.
The creation of the UKs leading airport retailer, World Duty Free, brought together 60 stores and several brands. The new business needed to consolidate on an upgraded EPoS system, and ensure that 24/7 support was delivered to all its front-line operations.
To outsource its Help Desk support services to a specialist provider that could manage the project to transition stores and brands to the new EPoS application, then provide 24/7 support. Retail Assist demonstrated its expertise in both domains.
Applications consultancy, a new infrastructure, transitioned brands and a support service all set up within demanding timescales
A 53% reduction in 3rd line support calls achieved after only one month
Better internal communications have eliminated merchandising pricing issues
The hoped-for improvement in customer experience, as users of the new EPoS are supported all hours by an expert team
Cost savings for WDF come from using Retail Assists shared Help Desk service model