Intelligent data systems

Trade Appliances, a retailer of built-in kitchen appliances, has spent over £300,000 in the last three years building a bespoke web-based, e-business system.

It did consider an off-the-shelf product as it was a cheaper option, but believed a tailored system would be more beneficial in the long-term.

As well as streamlining the business, deploying this technology has enabled the company to survive a devastating fire last year that destroyed the head office and warehouse facility, at a cost of £4 million. Before implementing the current model, Trade Appliances used a database system to record and track sales.

‘An order would come in, we would print it off, run over to the other system and input it. It was very labour-intensive. We decided we needed a system that would integrate showroom, telephone and online sales – we were very mindful that we wanted to treat customers in the same way, whatever sales channel they came through,’ recalls marketing manager Emma Lowe.

Interestingly enough, the month after the fire saw the business post record sales, with only ten orders being cancelled.

‘We thought at first it was just the warehouse, but it turned out to be everything. My office was being hosed down when I arrived at the scene. As we had migrated to a web-based system, we could be up and running from anywhere with a PC, a phone line and a password. Many of the staff were able to work over the weekend from home,’ comments Lowe.

The company has seen its sales increase by 85 per cent in the last year, topping £22.5 million.

Lowe believes that one of the main benefits of the system is the ability to access real-time information.

‘We can see our profit margins at the touch of a button and find out how many orders have been made – the audit systems are great. We can look at trends – for example, we can tell whether items such as home cookers have sold a lot in the last month. We know where our customers are and what they want.’

Marc Barber

Marc Barber

Marc was editor of GrowthBusiness from 2006 to 2010. He specialised in writing about entrepreneurs, private equity and venture capital, mid-market M&A, small caps and high-growth businesses.

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