The decision to move the management and support of its store systems is not an action any retailer takes lightly. The only way to ensure the success of such a potentially high risk strategy is, in the words of Karen Selway, CIO of Paperchase: "To implement a 'military style' project plan and work with a partner that understands your business and all the risks involved." That's why Paperchase handed responsibility for the managed service of its entire standalone store estate to retail systems specialists PMC.
The service consists of hosting and management of Paperchase's central store system, till software support, hardware maintenance and new store installations.
Paperchase is the UK's undisputed leader in innovative, design-led stationery, cards and gift-wrap. It has 80 standalone outlets in the UK, an online store launched in September 2010 and a continued store opening programme scheduled for 2012/13.
Selway explains the reasons behind the transition: "Our contract with a long-standing partner was up for renewal and as part of our internal due diligence process we went out to tender. We received a cost-compelling response from PMC. However, that wasn't the only criteria. We were looking for a partner with proven experience in the store systems arena and a strong working relationship with Retail J software solution provider, Torex. We also wanted a partner with the ability to proactively manage our estate, seeking to continually improve the service and work with us to advance our in-store technology. PMC gave us the confidence that they would be the right partner."
It only took 6 weeks of intensive planning and testing to move the service to PMC, which included physically moving Paperchase's central epos infrastructure to PMC in Abingdon.
Selway confirms: "Store systems are the life-line of any retail organisation. Without tills to take sales and systems to bank the credit card transactions, any retailer would soon be out of business, so a smooth transition was critical. This was a meticulously planned, significant joint effort. PMC fully supported the rigour behind the plan and gave us the high level of confidence we needed to go ahead. The project was a challenge and the timescale aggressive however together Paperchase and PMC managed a great transition."
Selway continues: "PMC works with a number of partners to provide a managed service. However as far as Paperchase is concerned PMC is 'on point' and contractually responsible for delivering the service."
As part of the service, PMC provides the Paperchase Help Desk through their partner Cyntergy to provide first line support for all its stores.
Selway says "The Help Desk logs each call, prioritises, resolves at first contact or sends it for resolution by the relevant group. It's early days but we have received a positive response from our stores on how their calls are answered, managed and closed."
The next step for PMC is to move Paperchase's central infrastructure onto new hardware in October 2011. This will improve performance and be bedded-in in advance of peak trading.
Paperchase has steadily expanded over recent years and has plans to open a further 20 standalone UK stores over the next 2 years and a flagship store in Glasgow, as Selway explains: "Our store opening programme is crucial to the realisation of our financial goals. PMC will be responsible for obtaining the software licences, configuring and installing the new store tills."
Selway concludes: "Following transition, our stores traded successfully and we only experienced a few problems. From decision to transition took 6 weeks - the concerted focus, high levels of planning to mitigate risk and everyone knowing what was needed ensured everything worked."
"In the near future we shall upgrade our store systems to work towards PCI DSS compliance and introduce a contactless trial. Without such a proactive partner our store systems could stagnate. PMC are subject matter experts, prepared to work collaboratively to provide ideas and be progressive with our IT solutions – that makes them the right partner to help us cost effectively achieve our goals and to drive quality into the process."
Huw Thomas, MD of PMC states: "Paperchase wanted a cost effective solution and a proactive provider to help move their business forward - not just in their current retail environment but also for their future plans – PMC is extremely pleased to fulfil that role."