International software products company, Argility, is planning an aggressive sales drive in South Africa with its ActiveRetail In – store and DolFin Merchandise Management retail software suites, believing the local retail industry is in a “technology upgrade cycle” as many retailers have not significantly upgraded IT systems since their turn-of-the-century Y2k technology realignments.
Unbundled by JSE-listed UCS Group last year – and trading on the over-the-counter market since November – Argility launched in South Africa in October landed its first software roll-out in the UK with UK-based homeware and furniture company, The Pier. Argility rolled out the South African developed ActiveRetail software solution together with UK channel partner, Arnel, at 34 The Pier outlets throughout the UK.
The company has also appointed four channel partners in the UK, each specialising in different areas of retail. Andrew Blatherwick, Argility’s director of business development, said the company expects to secure two to three “client implementations” via each UK channel partner during the next 12 months.
Despite its growth potential in the UK and other world markets – including the USA and Europe – Argility believes that South Africa will continue to be one of it’s most significant markets, “certainly in the short to medium term”.
In South Africa one of Argility’s customers Foschini have 13 trading divisions, they needed a Point of Sale solution that provided exceptional control procedures but also allowed the business the flexibility, diverse functionality and ease of use for all its divisions. It needed to know that the solution was going to be around and well supported for the future and was capable of facilitating the growth plans for the business. With retailing becoming more competitive and customer choice increasing they also needed to be at the forefront of customer service.
JSE-listed retail technology company, UCS Group Limited, Argility’s main partners in SA – and with blue chip retailers like the JD Group and Foschini among its client base, Blatherwick said he believes Argility is “hitting the tarmac running”.
“It is hard to provide sales numbers right now. But SA is our launch pad – our main starting block. We are looking to appoint other channel partners in SA in due course and, as in the UK, we are currently working on establishing partners in the USA and other English speaking countries.”
He said the replacement cycle for merchandise and In Store solutions is seven to 10 years, adding that many retailers, both locally and abroad, had not significantly upgraded systems since their Y2K technology investments.
“The time is ripe for reinvestments in more modern and functional IT solutions – and this situation is also true in SA. Although the recently introduced National Credit Act (NCA) has created a now-noticeable sales squeeze in SA as consumers start to feel the economic pinch – which has been exacerbated by higher inflation and interest rates – retailers who want to stay ahead will need to invest in technology. This is why we are bullish.”
Blatherwick says that retailers which have survived and prospered in tough economic times are the ones who realize that they need to operate more efficiently. “One of the key ways to do this, naturally, is to bat smarter; to improve operational efficiencies. By using smarter technology, this is possible. If you look at successful retailers like Home Depot, Wal-Mart and Tesco, they don’t stop investing in technology when times are tough. That is why they stay at the forefront, maintaining – and gaining – market share.”
Argility, which aquired the intellectual property behind two of UCS’s product lines, ActiveRetail and DolFin, said its main plan is to internationalise the two product lines.
“We have a foothold in the UK as well now, via our successful roll-out at The Pier with our channel partner, Arnel. But our main strength, we believe, is that we are a retail focused company. The difference is that we outsource our development and our implementation, with our added value coming in terms of our knowledge of all retail sectors, in a broad spectrum and across international markets.”
The company, adds Blatherwick, is also planning to grow its product offerings beyond ActiveRetail and DolFin and, due to its international focus, will be able to offer a wider spectrum of functionality to retailers, including functionality drivers that are “just becoming available”.
“Retailers dealing with local IT suppliers will not be able to gain from the innovation driven by leading edge retail developments and access to the innovative suite of internationally applicable software and solutions that we, as an international player, can provide.”
Blatherwick says independent or integrated In Store and merchandise management solutions provide the retailer with the agility required in today’s competitive retail environment, with the speed and ease of implementation “that will not impede company performance but, yet, embodies innovation”.
“Our fully trained and certified channel partners have the experience and knowledge of local markets to deliver successful projects.”