SportsWorld signs £5m convergence contract

To Affiniti and beyond, for high street retailer

To Affiniti and beyond, for high street retailer

Retailer SportsWorld has signed a £5m, three-year deal with Affiniti for voice, data and video connectivity across its 250 UK shops and its head office.

This is the first major deal Affiniti is shouting about since its renaming this year, which followed the earlier merger of Kingston Communications Business Services, Omnetica and Technica.

It sees converged communications over existing DSL connections and SportsWorld is forecasting savings of £500,000 over the next three years, much of it predicted to come from less money spent on existing circuits from BT.

Applications that will contribute to an unspecified return on investment include staff checking stock availability from shop floors using wirelessly connected PDAs and always-on, IP-based credit card authorisations, both of which should result in quicker service.

John Ashley, SportsWorld IT director, told that his company has been ahead of the field in using IP telephony, using Cisco kit - still part of the latest deal - as far back as 2000 for a converged network.

However, he said the latest development "enables business processes to happen quickly, simply, directly - one solution solved five, six or seven problems".

SportsWorld is a "heavy user" of Citrix thin clients, said Ashley, which the new set-up should help.

It uses till software from BT Expedite to connect directly back to the head office. "We don't end up with cached old information stuck in the branches," added Ashley.

Affiniti director Peter Halls said that remote monitoring and management, carried out from the company's network operations centre in Hemel Hempstead, should also mean less risk of downtime, hindering sales.

High street retailing in the UK has entered something of a slump but SportsWorld sees its growth continuing with the help of information and communications technologies.

"We have to move ahead of the market," added SportsWorld's Ashley. "It is the job of the entrepreneurs to determine where the market is going and the job of IT to make it happen."