UK sports equipment retailer and consultancy, Totally Fitness has abandoned Sage for retail management software from software-as-a-service (SaaS) provider, NetSuite.

The company has experienced double-digit business growth and reached annual revenue levels of £5.5 million since its launch in 2002, having recently also expanded its retail footprint to six outlets in the UK, including a concession in luxury London department store Harrods.

As a result, it has abandoned Sage Line 50 back-office software and implemented enterprise resource planning (ERP) and customer relationship management (CRM) SaaS functionality to manage its financial operations, inventory, real-time reporting and customer records.

Rafael Muller, financial controller for Totally Fitness told CIO UK it became painfully clear that its Sage-based accounting and stock management solution was inadequate, resulting in the loss of a significant amount of money on returns and faulty products – because Totally Fitness couldn't give customers the after service required due to the inability of Sage, as an ERP system, to log in the customer information.

Also, as the company grew from one warehouse to multiple warehouses, the Line 50 client/server architecture made it difficult and expensive to access retail data from multiple locations.

The Sage Line 50 product also lacked basic functionality required to address the Totally Fitness retail operational needs. “From an operations and finance perspective, we realised we were making assumptions that the data produced in Sage reports was accurate – we were basically making decisions blind,” said Muller. Taking the situation with returns as an example, he added: “We also fulfil orders over the internet. If they get returned they need to be collected, returned to the warehouse and then the manufacturer, repaired, replaced or the customer’s money refunded. Now we can do that in one system.”

In addition, the adoption of NetSuite eliminated data re-entry – on sales and purchase orders, for example – leading to wasted effort and errors. The double-entry problem stemmed from Totally Fitness having previously trialled Salesforce.com to manage its salesforce automation. “If the system isn’t simple and straightforward then people will simply not use it – which was the case with Salesforce.com," said Muller.

Mike Triall, Totally Fitness IT manager added: “We quickly outgrew our existing systems and looked at upgrading, but the different products we were offered by Sage and resellers didn’t necessarily instil us with a great deal of confidence. And the growing networking costs of new sites, plus the lack of multi-location functionality and cost of roll out gave the web-based solution of NetSuite a big advantage over the SAP and Microsoft [equivalents].”

Working with NetSuite Professional Services, Totally Fitness used NetSuite’s SuiteFlex customisation platform to cater the management system to its specific needs – such as creating a link between sales orders and purchase orders; and allowing sales people to see the profit and net profit on a deal every time they open a sales order. Muller said: “Now we can move stock between the stores, see what levels are like in the warehouse – basically we know where things are, when things need to be done and when they are done.”

Muller adds that, in future, it will support growth ambitions of doubling the number of stores year-on-year. “We’ve probably used about 1% of the system so far. I can see there’s so much else we can do with it,” he said. “I want management to be able to look at a dashboard of key real-time metrics and we’re not far away from that now.”

In response to growing demand from the Sage customer base, NetSuite is also launching a free data migration offer to new customers today.