A prominent exhibitor at the Retail Business Technology Expo, Sunwin IT Services is a member of the Sunwin Services Group, which specialises in IT systems and support, managed security, cash management and fire and security for retail operations. Sunwin has a proven ability to solve real business problems in each of these critical fields, providing flexible, cost-effective and innovative solutions.

Each Sunwin specialism was developed by The Co-operative Group to satisfy the needs of its network of over 4,000 outlets from John O’Groats to Lands End, covering in excess of 10,000 lanes processing over 30 million transactions per day; covering food, healthcare, travel and more, and 40 distribution and customer services centres. Now all that hard-won expertise and experience is at your disposal.

Rob Lennox, Head of Sunwin IT Services, spoke to The Grocery Trader.

The Grocery Trader – Rob, what does your role as Head of Sunwin IT Services involve? Do you go out to see customers and talk to them about how Sunwin can help them?

I give the company its direction and strategy. I have been in the retail IT services business most of my career, having originally started in the stores. I meet with our customers, to understand their requirements, address any concerns and discuss future demands and patterns in the industry.

GT – When was Sunwin Services Group as it is now, set up?

Sunwin continues to evolve. Sunwin Services Group became part of The Co-operative Group in 2007, previously operating for some years with both the United and Yorkshire Co-operatives. The current set-up was finalised in 2010. We are very fortunate to be able to find support for our planned investment in systems, buildings, personnel and so on – with the new National Service Centre now open, we are a different business again to the one we were at this time last year.

GT – Why did you start offering Sunwin’s services to retailers other than The Co-operative Group? How big a business is this now?

We tested the market and felt there was room for a new entrant to make a difference, to improve standards and offer a service that truly reflected the demands of the retailer and their customers. We were formed from the frustration of The Co-operative Group not being able to find the level of service they were demanding. Today the business is turning over in excess of £13m and employs around 200 staff, with our National Service Centre, five regional offices, and head office. We are a significant player in the IT Services Market.

GT – Do you cover the whole of the UK?

Yes, we cover the whole of the UK and Ireland.

GT – Rob, in this interview we’re going to concentrate on Sunwin IT Services, but can you briefly talk us through the other managed services you supply – managed security, cash management and fire and security?

Sunwin Services Group delivers key support services to retailers, allowing them to focus on their brand and their offer. Sunwin Managed Security provides SIA Licensed and vetted Security Officers, supported by a 24×7 Control Centre. Sunwin Fire & Security, unsurprisingly, designs, supplies, installs, maintains and monitors fire and security systems. Sunwin Cash Management specialises in Cash and Valuables in Transit; moving cash from banks to store and back again, as well as providing a full ATM replenishment and maintenance service. Sunwin’s customers now include many leading UK High Street retailers, proving the Sunwin model can deliver a quality and valued service to the retail marketplace.

GT – Where is Sunwin IT Services based? How many field engineers and other staff do you have?

We are a nationwide operation with around 150 engineers and seven offices. Our headquarters is in Manchester, with the Central Hub based in Stoke-on-Trent.

GT – What kind of retailers, and size of retailers are you looking to help on the IT side?

We support a diverse user base today – food stores, pharmacies, travel services, funeral services and even the UK’s largest farm estate. We are happy to talk with anyone in the retail sector: we are a significant retail IT services organisation that can deliver improved services to any IT environment, and ultimately to the stores and consumers.

GT – Are you looking at working for regional multiples and convenience store chains?

Yes, we are. Our team will be happy to discuss any IT requirements, whether you are talking long-term strategy or an instant fix for a pressing problem. We can work on any scale from a multi-site system to a single terminal and provide round the clock support 365 days a year.

GT – Given that IT is the backbone of a modern retail operation, do you find retailers are happy outsourcing this area of their business to a company owned by another retailer?

Sunwin is part of a £14bn organisation – The Co-operative Group. It is a business that is both secure and underpinned by the Co-operative movement’s values and principles. The Co-operative is one of the UK’s most trusted brands: why should there be any issue? People should judge us on the service we deliver and the value we bring. Sunwin is an exceptional IT services organisation: financially secure, able to make investment, able to borrow, and able to grow and adapt our service to meet your needs.

GT – Can you talk us through Sunwin IT Services’ store support offering?

Sunwin covers all areas of the store, from the till/EPoS to the back-office PC. We support every area of IT within the store – servers, printers, self-checkout, kiosk, hand-held devices, wireless networks and even covering PDA’s such as iPhones and Androids. With our Petrol Retail Passport accreditation we cover petrol retailing. Sunwin supports the UK’s largest retail estate, in terms of stores and locations, and we have the infrastructure to ensure our engineers are skilled, available and have the correct parts with them. This is what ensures that Sunwin delivers the highest level of services against any agreed SLA.

GT – What does your desktop services cover?

Since the desktop can mean many things to many people, our approach is to work with our customers to provide a service that compliments and supports their own team and skill set: our offer is diverse and yet bespoke.

GT – What kinds of repairs can you provide?

We offer component level repairs and warranty management.

GT – How do you handle all the components?

Sunwin has developed our National Service Centre in Wolstanton, Stoke; this 55,000 sq ft facility is the Central Hub for all our logistics support. Sunwin can trunk goods anywhere in the country overnight, to be there the next morning. Add in the Regional Centres, forward stock/field stock locations and “boot-stock”, and Sunwin is able to maintain a great quality of service. The secret is ensuring the right products are in the right place at the right time: a bit like retailing itself – after all, we are The Co-operative!

GT – Do you have links with any particular hardware or software suppliers? Are you truly independent in your recommendations?

Sunwin supports and works with equipment from many suppliers IBM, HP, Xerox, Ricoh, NCR, WINCOR, Motorola, Datalogic, BT, Ingenico and Zebra… to name but a few.

GT – Are you looking to add more services?

Yes: we are always looking to invest for future growth. We see scales, power and data as being areas where we can see a quick return moving forward.  Other areas are kiosk and self-checkout.

GT – Do you offer a similar IT service for distribution centres? Do you offer Warehouse Management Systems, Voice and so on?

This is an area where we can see future growth. We have worked with areas of The Co-operative Group to install and support the DC’s, covering voice and so on, and this is on the agenda to be explored further.

GT – Do you have confidentiality agreements with your customers? Do you have case studies – unnamed or otherwise – detailing your work for customers?

Of course we have confidentiality agreements in place. We are developing case studies and plan to have these available in the very near future.

GT – What IT services do you offer for retailers looking to roll out or upgrade their IT services?

Our IMAC Team – Installations, Moves, Additions and Change – have delivered a wide range of services. These cover New EPoS Roll-outs, and upgrades, even simple projects such as “Memory Upgrades.”

We have projects that include kiosk, Kronos Clock Systems, server upgrades, biometric systems, power and data cabling, refits, petrol forecourt upgrades and Chip &PIN. If there is an IT Project that needs someone to plan, manage, implement and support, then Sunwin IT Services is capable of delivering that project.

GT – I gather you offer a service called InControl, which can integrate retailers’ EPoS and store management needs. Can you tell us about this?

The InControl Evolution application is a complete store management system. The store environment has moved on from the simple requirements of knowing what was sold, for how much, by whom and how did they pay, to cover many areas that can impact the supply chain – price and promotion, customer service, localised management information and so on.

In-Control Evolution is a .net-based application that is used by a range of retailers including The Co-operative Group. Its flexible architecture, combined with function rich offering for staff at store level, regional manager level, and head-office, makes it a great choice for retailers for their store environment. The systems can be thin-client; fat-client; real-time; batch – whatever the legacy infrastructure is able to support.

GT – What about help with store moves?

Store openings and closings are all part of the retail routine, and supporting the UK’s largest estate, we know all about this area.

GT – Can you help retailers with PCI DSS compliance?

Yes. PCI compliance brings many, many challenges to the retail organisation. Typically, Sunwin provides the “arms & legs” to implement any changes that need to take place.  An example is the installation of over 3,000 Juniper Routers to individual stores – not an insignificant challenge, but it ensured that The Co-operative Group is in-line with the PCI regulations.

GT – Can you help retailers install and support kiosks, self-checkout and ATMs?

Yes. Sunwin helps deliver change to any operation, including installing and supporting this type of equipment. We invest in training our staff, developing their skills and knowledge.

GT – Can you help companies integrate their IT with their electronic security systems?

This is an area where we can work with partners, or other areas of the Sunwin Group. What Sunwin IT Services brings is expertise in the IT market, and a deep understanding of the impact IT can have on the retailer, the store, the customer, the brand and the offer.

GT – If people want to talk to someone from Sunwin IT Services, who should they contact?

People can contact me directly, or our Business Development Manager, John Godman. Our full details are on the Sunwin Services Group website – www.sunwinservicesgroup.co.uk We would be delighted to talk with anyone about how we can help them to deliver their brand and offer to the consumer.

GT – What were you exhibiting at Retail Business Technology Expo and the National Convenience Show? How was the response?

Sunwin was present at the Retail Business Technology Expo, and we found it to be a very useful event. We plan to be there in 2012, and hope that the response and the footfall will be similar. People are starting to know and recognise our brand: we have signage on all Sunwin Services Group vehicles and the SSG Shield Logo is beginning to establish itself in the UK Retail Market. We weren’t at The National Convenience Show this year, however, this could be a possibility for 2012.

GT – Finally, where do you see Sunwin IT Services and Sunwin Services Group going from here? How much capacity do you have to take on new clients?

In terms of capacity we know we can grow and flex our operation. We are looking to bring more customers year on year; we have the business model, infrastructure, backing and support to grow the business. We are here for the long haul; The Co-operative Group sees this as a long-term and strategic investment for the business as a whole.

Sunwin Services Group

Tel: 0800 980 9911


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