Sports PLC is a fast-growing online sports supplies business with highly successful operations in the UK and United States.
From a standing start at the beginning of the millennium, the company has grown to become a multi-million pound business, with thriving operations on both sides of the Atlantic.
Today, golf equipment and clothing, the original basis of the business, accounts for around 50% of sales; cricket, leisure and outdoor supplies make up the balance.
The company has come a long way since its early days of selling a limited number of product lines on eBay. Today, it supplies over 3,000 lines, from around 11 web sites in the UK and four in the US. These include www.thesportshq.com, www.golfoutletsusa.com, www.woodworm.tv and www.camping.co.uk.
Sports PLC is one of DCSL Software’s longest-standing customers. It has based its e-commerce activities on a powerful database-driven application built by DCSL since it identified the need to establish its own website 8-9 years ago.
Since then, a relationship that began with a simple introduction through a mutual acquaintance has grown to become an important pillar of the client base.
Indeed, Sports PLC has grown at such a rate that it retired its first back-end system in 2008, replacing it with a highly scalable sales order processing system which drives all of the UK and US websites. The bespoke software brings together everything from inventory management to customer relationship management, and is able to produce on-the-fly reporting of ‘pretty much anything you might ever want to know,’ according to Sales Director, James Millington.
“While the older system had served us very well, it was developed when we were still very small, and managing a product range with perhaps 100 lines,” he explains. “We hadn’t asked for the original application to include stock control, which was fine when we had a small enough business to check stock levels manually, but eventually it became clear that our requirements had become a lot more sophisticated. We were beginning to experience out-of-stock situations, and purchasing was becoming harder.”
A distributed front office and back office sales, stock control, order, PO and dispatch system which links sales information to inventory management and customer relationship management, in a fully joined-up way.
With its depth of understanding of the business, and the proven robustness of its solutions, DCSL was the natural choice for the new, more advanced back-end sales order processing application, which Sports PLC has now been using for approximately 4 years.
“These guys know the code inside out, and they use the very latest technology,” Millington says, noting that the new platform is based on Microsoft’s .Net framework. “Our new platform is very scalable. While each country has its own version of the sales order processing system for its web sites, this all feeds into a single, powerful database driven application,” he explains. “This means that all of our sales information is linked to inventory management and customer relationship management, in a fully joined-up way.”
The online retail sites themselves, meanwhile, are feature-rich and employ high-quality graphic design.
All of this is protected by multiple mirror and fail-over systems, too, ensuring maximum availability and resilience of both the websites and access to their data.
Millington singles out the system’s reporting capabilities as being particularly impressive. “Everything is fully synchronised so, from a desk just a few feet away, I can pull down any data I might want on the US business in seconds,” he says. “There’s almost nothing this system can’t do.”
The ability to forecast the peaks and troughs of business means, for example, that stock levels are maintained at an optimum level. “This has had a direct impact on sales,” Millington explains. “Information is key. Our major lines can sell at a rate of 1,000 units a month. Not being out of stock can mean the difference between us being able to secure £50,000 in revenue per month per line or not.”
We have chosen DCSL Software to work with for the last 8 years for a simple reason – they are excellent, intelligent and creative web & application developers.
The flexibility of the system, and DCSL’s commitment to the highest levels of service, mean that Sports PLC can keep innovating, too.
“I don’t think there’s anything we could ask DCSL that would floor them,” Millington remarks. “For example, we provide personalised golf balls, using photos, which people offer as gifts. No sooner had we mentioned this, than the guys had added a neat way to do it.”
The attentiveness of DCSL’s developers has been paramount to the relationship, and to Sports PLC’s ability to maximise its business growth potential.
“We’ve grown so big now that our success depends on DCSL’s software. The new application, with the integral inventory management, is just fantastic. And we never need to worry that it might go down. Because the US synchronises to the UK office, if there was ever an issue at the data centre in London, we could flip a switch and run the system from the US within two minutes. Every consideration has been given to the system’s resilience and availability, with full auto-testing.”
But, more than that, DCSL Software is on call at any time of day or night, 365 days a year. “The support is exceptional,” Millington notes. “They’re always available at the end of the phone. “
DCSL’s ongoing commitment to Sports PLC isn’t only in a supportive capacity, either. “They’re always surprising us,” Millington smiles. “They’re continually coming to us and saying, ‘We’ve been working on this and we think you’ll like it.’ That’s priceless.”
Inspired by DCSL’s dedication to innovation, Sports PLC’s next plans include slick integration with eBay and Amazon, whose sites the company sells through. “The integration will be so tight that we’ll have real-time stock information, which will flow through to dispatch using handheld PDAs,” he explains.
“We’re also working together on a clever returns module, involving a simple, single-screen process for customer service. It’s all very exciting.”
Furthermore, in response to the increasing use of mobile phones to conduct online shopping, Sports PLC are working closely with DCSL Software on the development of a mobile browser solution to facilitate this. Just another example of how DCSL Software grows alongside a business to support their success.