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Cybertill nominated for Retail Tech Award!

Pop the Prosecco! Cybertill are absolutely thrilled to announce that we have been shortlisted for Tech Team of the Year at the Retail Week Tech. Awards for our collaboration with Barnardo’s!

With over 700 Barnardo’s shops to roll out in, the Cybertill team had to work hard to ensure that things ran smoothly with the introduction of our charity retail system CharityStore. As part of the roll out, 24-hour support was available online, as well as a dedicated Cybertill Account Manager, allowing Barnardo’s to make the most of our cloud solution.

Jennifer Murphy, Account Management Team Leader at Cybertill explains; “We’re very happy with how our charity EPoS roll-out has gone with Barnardo’s. In the first 3 months, we managed to deploy CharityStore in over 50 of their stores, which is a testament to the fantastic team here at Cybertill and at Barnardo’s, and I’m really looking forward to working with them on a regular basis as their dedicated Account Manager.”

The Tech. awards, which takes place on the 13th September in London, aims to “highlight the best in how technology is enhancing customer experience, how it is revolutionising the retail supply chain, the cleverest digital ideas, and the most successful teams who are helping to lead the change for a new retail world” and we could not be happier to be considered with our charity retail system!

It was fantastic working on the Barnardo’s charity EPoS roll out, and we felt rewarded knowing that we have provided the charity with a means to enhance their retail business processes and increase their Gift Aid! We look forward to working with them now, and in the future, as we support them and their amazing volunteers on their retail journey.

Roy Clark, Director of Retail and Trading, said that “Investing in charity EPoS is an essential move into the digital realm for our retail chain, giving us a vast amount of consumer insight and enabling the simplification of processes both on and off the shop floor”. “We managed to deploy Cybertill’s CharityStore retail management platform very quickly. Immediately after the initial roll out, we found that Gift Aid already increased by 12%. We’re very happy that we chose Cybertill.”

We are up against some brilliant brands/teams in the Tech Team of the Year category including:

  • Argos, In Store Digital Overhaul
  • Boohoo with Syte Technology, Visual Search Technology
  • Bünting with RELEX Solutions, Innovation Produces Results
  • EDITED, Customer Success as a Culture, Not a Department
  • Tesco, Tesco Technology Team
  • Vodafone, Vodafone Tech Team
  • (And of course) Barnardo’s with Cybertill, EPoS Roll out

Cybertill CEO Ian Tomlinson has congratulated the team involved in the charity retail system roll out; “Being shortlisted for the Retail Week Tech. awards is an incredible achievement. This award is a well-earned recognition that you all deserve”

“I’m very proud of you all. This is a great achievement.”

Misplaced Prejudices will not save the high street

There have been quite a few heated debates about the health of local high streets and how they can be transformed. Ideas vary from using some premises as housing, to using property to encourage arts to start-up businesses. But there has been little consensus on how the government and councils, with the aid of businesses, can revamp and relaunch the high street. The Government did commission the Mary Portas Review, but this appears to have had little of the desired effect. The only agreement thus far is that we cannot go on with such high rent and rates and something has got to give.

This unhealthy backdrop has lead to some tensions and disagreements on the high street.  At times charity retailers are often used as an example of how they ‘blight’ the high street. Most recently this was highlighted by a proposal by the Welsh Government in its proposed changes to business rates. Some of which included cutting rate relief for all charity shops from 80% to 50%. The Charity Retail Association, a not-for-profit organisation that represents and lobbies on behalf of the charity retail sector, believes if such cuts would affect jobs, charity shops would close and several million would be lost from charity income. And according to the article on the BBC website, that covered this story, there are only 512 charity shops in Wales. All this for 512 shops, it seems a little excessive.

If you dig a little deeper into the stats for Britain, you can see there are around 430,000 shops in the UK. Of those there are around 8,500 charity shops. So around 2% are charity shops. By persecuting a small percentage of shops, which actually support and help the local communities within which they are based seems nonsensical. And it has no effect on resolving or saving our high streets.

So rather than looking to save a little money here or there, that actually ends up costing the local area much more in the long run, isn’t it time there was a real consensus on what can be done to transform the high street. Yes the high street has to change, and many may shrink, as there appears to be over capacity. But all parties should work together to find a viable solution that helps local economies and high streets rather than look to apportion blame or persecute the minority.

Joined up approach to Fundraising

Cybertill has just been attending the Lotteries Council Conference where there were a number of charities. It quickly became apparent when talking to the charity delegates that their fundraising departments are becoming more joined up in their approach. In the past charities fundraising departments such as: retail, lottery, events and so forth have worked in isolation rather than collaboratively. Much of this was determined by their technology or lack of it. There wasn’t a simple way that say retail could share information about donors with the events or lottery team. Or indeed all fundraising departments may have separate individual records, so donors may be bombarded with letters, emails and so forth from the same charity without the separate departments being aware.

Now thanks to new technologies and methods of working charities are able to stream their resources together for  a coordinated approach to fundraising, reaping the benefits along the way. For example many of Cybertill’s charity customers are able to share their donor information with their events team, this is incredibly easy because Cybertill is cloud based and can be accessed from any where in real time. This allows head office to extract the latest donor information and share with other departments.

Indeed the week after the Lotteries Council Show Cybertill is attending the Help the Hospices Retail Conference and many of the delegates from the former will be attending the latter. Evidence indeed that charities approach has become more collaborative, whether this has change has been driven by technology or the charities themselves is a moot point, but what is unarguable is that it is benefiting a charities bottom line.

Is Charity Retail booming through investment in retail technology?

Recent reports have highlighted how well Charity Retail sector is doing. The numbers of shops are on the increase and sales are on the up, so what is fuelling this increase? Many charity shops have invested in ‘high street retail’ software systems. More specifically this investment has been on EPoS systems that can also automate the reclamation of gift aid. Gift Aid allows charities to reclaim tax (from the Government) on donations from donors, at no cost to the donor or charity. “This investment is one of the main drivers for growth,” comments Cybertill’s Business Development Director, Rob Finley. “Cybertill has experienced this first hand, as almost one in three charity shops in the UK now use Cybertill. There are other factors too, most notably the economy. This is arguably the principle reason why more people are visiting and shopping in charity shops. They see the value and the quality of the goods on offer.”

According to research undertaken by OnePoll 44% of consumers are now shopping in charity shops. The research highlighted price and quality of goods as the main reasons. This increase in footfall has resulted in the surge of investment in the charity retail sector. Charities are looking to capitalise on this resurgence are deploying EPoS and gift aid systems. Not only does this help manage stock and stores more effectively, but charities are able to claim additional funds back from gift aid, which helps to deliver a quick return on investment. This is true for regional and national charities, for example St Barnabas Hospices, in Sussex are able to claim an additional £10,000 a month in gift aid whereas Cancer Research UK hope to claim £18m over 5 years.

Whilst the upsurge in charity retail is principally a result of the economic climate the resulting investment in charity EPoS systems and gift aid software is allowing charities to create more funds for their causes whilst being able to manage their retail arms more effectively. You can find out more about Cybertill’s charity retail system by clicking here or by contacting us directly.

Censoring Charity Retailers on the High Street?

Should the government dictate what types and numbers of shops are on the high street? This may seem extreme but erstwhile saviour of Charity Retail, Mary Portas, has recently suggested that the number of charity shops on the high street should be limited by tax laws.

This is not Portas’ only suggestion as she looks to turn around failing high streets and incentivise more independents with her High Street Review, as she was appointed as a Retail Tsar by the coalition.

Portas has recently toured the country looking at what issues different high streets face before drawing up her review of the high street. On one visit to Rotherham Portas was shown the size of the task facing the review. Rotherham, according to many, has never recovered from the building of shopping mall Meadowhall just three miles away. This has resulted in many shops on Rotherham high street being empty for 10 years and more.

With the recent economic malaise more charity shops have appeared on the high street, taking advantage of greater availability of premises. Accurate figures on this are hard to come by, but according to the Charity Retail Association there are approximately 7,500 charity shops in the UK, whilst Local Data Company believe there are 8,500. To actually track growth Civil Society’s survey of charity shops is possibly the best tool. In 2010, 78 charities responded to their survey, and they had a combined 5,375 shops in the UK. In 2011, 75 charities responded, and they had a combined 6,045 shops. This represents a year on year increase of 12.5% and on average 8.6 more stores per charity in 2011. (Please see comments below blog on these stats, as these are not true like for like figures).

The high street is ever changing and a reflection of society and the economy. With low consumer confidence and a stalling economy, yes the high street does need invigoration, and charity shops and discount shops have become more prevalent on the high street, as the above figures suggest. But, there is a cultural shift on the high street, which is probably best symbolised by Primark opening concessions in Selfridges. One of the most exclusive names of the UK high street allowing one of the cheapest, if not the cheapest, fashion retailers to open a concession. More and more people are looking for a bargain, dictated by the economy, as shoppers become more thrifty and all retailers are having to respond accordingly.

The economy and people’s changing needs have resulted in the rise in numbers of charity shops. Without them many more high streets would be blighted by many more boarded up, empty retail premises. And of course over recent years charity shops have transformed themselves in what they sell and how they market and merchandise their stores. Many have invested in retail EPoS systems, and this has attracted a greater footfall, ironically much of this is because of Mary Portas. It appears now pinpointing charity shops as the one of the main reasons for turning consumers off the high street is somewhat short sighted, and missing the bigger picture.

The high street is in trouble, but the biggest factor is the economy. When this recovers so will the high street, so how can the high street be re-invigorated in between? Well one issue is if people aren’t confident in the economy there is very little that will tempt them to the shops. But, focusing on consumers and what they want from their local high street, might be a good starting point in conjunction with tax breaks and incentives to attract retailers back to the high street might be a more compelling solution than side stepping the main issues and targeting charity retailers.

Can Charities Rely on Gift Aid to plug the funding shortfall?

Following the announcement that more than 2,000 charities across England are having their funding cut or withdrawn by local councils they now need to find new funding streams. Local government minister Bob Neil was quoted as saying the government was offering charities help to move away from state funding.

Some questions remain unanswered, for example when will the funding be cut, and how long will charities have to find alternative funding? Can a charity that has had say 50% of funding cut be given sufficient time to source alternative funding. Of course charities can look internally for cost savings, but many are lean organisations so there will be limited opportunities.

One area that many charities, both national and smaller regional charities have been able to exploit is gift aid. Those charities that have a retail presence have been able to raise substantial funds through gift aid. For example a small hospice in the south of England that has 11 stores generates over £100,000 each year through gift aid, so there are real opportunities out there.

That said what other options are open to charities, rely on volunteers to work that was originally done by paid staff? One could argue that whilst the government is ring fencing International Aid, should there be lobbying for them to ring fence charity funding paid by local councils? Whatever happens next charities need to look to for innovative new ways to plug the shortfall, whilst gift aid is not a complete panacea it certainly offers some answers to the stark issues facing charities.

Why is cloud computing a must for Hospice Retailers?

Regional Hospices throughout the UK have turned to retail in helping them raise valuable funds to help maintain their critical services for their local communities. Many hospices now have a charity shop(s) on their local high street(s), as they strive to offer the best palliative care to their patients and with it a good quality of life, in spite of their illnesses.

The main focus for all hospices is caring for their patients. With that comes the management of their confidential medical records and all that goes with running a medical establishment. In addition to that more and more hospices are installing electronic point of sale systems (EPoS systems) to manage their retail operations. Traditional EPoS systems are deployed locally and retailers are also required to invest and manage additional back office servers. So now many hospices are grappling with managing medical and retail servers or potentially having to combine them. The key benefit of cloud based EPoS systems and cloud computing for hospices is that the applications and software are hosted for hospices in the ‘cloud’, allowing them to focus on delivering their critical services to their patients.

Another key benefit for cloud based systems in the Hospice sector is that with resources often stretched cloud based systems minimise management required of the system, helping to alleviate the management burden. Dove House Hospice chose to deploy a web based EPoS system,” explains Dove House’s IT manager Andy Dinsdale. “Because the system is web based the data is not on our servers, but held off site, bringing peace of mind, as we are no longer holding any sensitive data so there is no security risk at Dove House. Again, as it is web based there is no software on the till, so if there is a problem with the till hardware I can just swap a spare machine over. Five minutes in the shop and they are up and running again. There is no data to have to reinstall, no polling of sales done that day, it makes management of the system so much easier.”

Any EPoS system chosen needs to match the hospice’s medium and long term retail strategy and once deployed it is vital that the hospice looks to maximise its investment. One of the main benefits of EPoS systems is the business intelligence it creates, this allows charity’s much more control of their retail estate.  For example Dove House Hospice has 31 stores across Hull, Beverley and East Yorkshire, all in very different areas with different types of customers. Marisa Coleman, Retail Division Manager at Dove House Hospice explains how they used the business intelligence to change the way they approach charity retailing. “Through the reports generated in our EPoS system we are now removing departments from shops, as they (the individual charity shops) now cater for their customers needs. So we are looking at sales in a mainstream retail way. We used to churn out the charity shops, in that 40% of the shop floor was ladies wear, 20% menswear and so on.  There are some shops that do really well with children’s wear and nursery goods and others it just doesn’t sell whatever price you put it at, so we remove that department. So now we are looking at maximising the sales per foot in each shop.”

Charity retailers should look to high street retailers to see how they can optimise their business and how they can fully use their EPoS system. Some charities now have ecommerce sites and they can link their EPoS system to their ecommerce arm of the business, this helps manage stock centrally and allows each sales channel to recognise donors and customers both in store and online. Others are now beginning to issue donor cards to supporters of their charity shops. This helps create loyalty, and depending on how their system is set up, the cards can automate the gift aid reclamation process for the charity. Currently gift aid is one of the main talking points in charity retailing. It is a huge opportunity for all charity retailers, it potentially means whatever a product is sold for in store they can claim a further 25% of its resale value from HMRC. The challenge for charity retailers is optimising what they reclaim through gift aid and charity EPoS systems are critical in this process.

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