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Mint Velvet & Retail Assist project much appreciated
17
Feb '11
“Remarkable” launch programme proven to be an early indication of success for Mint Velvet and Retail Assist

One year later, Mint Velvet sales top £10m, “exceeding expectations” and the partnership is recognised by prestigious industry awards

Business challenge – tight commercial deadlines
Explains Mint Velvet's Commercial Director, Stuart Grant: “If our deadline had been missed, it would have been impossible to trade in House of Fraser stores. Failure, just being a little late, wasn't an option. We'd have had to defer launch until Jan/Feb, losing up to six months' trading.”

As a start-up, Mint Velvet was simultaneously locating and hiring new personnel at multiple levels, working on design and merchandising of new ranges, establishing key channels and choosing sites. Limited availability of senior personnel meant that empowerment of the project team, led by Retail Assist, was critical.

Stuart Grant observes: “Retail Assist led the whole project. They were the specialists with a proven record, so we outsourced to them. In terms of project governance, we set clear requirements and agreed the process. Retail Assist was then empowered to take it all forward.”

The process – rapidly planning the optimum solution
First, Retail Assist recommended systems flexible enough for all requirements, including head office and warehouse, systems integration across the supply chain with e-commerce, store systems and 14 concessions.

The optimum mix of software and applications was identified to meet all business, retail and operational criteria:

• Merret for merchandising management, supply chain, warehousing – integrated with partner solution Infinity PoS
• Implementation and design by BT Fresca of FrescaCommerce Express e-commerce platform, with proven stability and ease of integration between Merret/Fresca to share product/pricing information, pass sales data back to Merret, and send fulfilment data to the logistics centre
• Remote access solution from Cisco for staff to access services via laptops
• MS head office infrastructure including Exchange, file and print, and Outlook Web Access
• Remote management of web site usage, mail scanning, verification
• Warehouse physical setup, creating a working office space, implementing RF network

Mint Velvet Non-Executive Director, Chris Inman, comments: “We started with a blank sheet and met Retail Assist. From then, we'd established the merchandising system by taking Merret 'out-of-the-box' and we'd set up head office systems, in just six weeks. Incredible.”

The solution – and new business - starts to take shape
Retail Assist managed solus store openings and designed and delivered extensive support services including:

• 1st line support - dedicated Service Desk
• 2nd line support for Infinity PoS via the expert Store Systems team
• 2nd line Merret support via a dedicated Applications team

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