The Homeopathic Supply Company (hsconline), based in a village on the North Norfolk coast, supplies homeopaths and complementary therapists in the UK and around the world with screw cap bottles, dropper bottles, glass bottles, tablets, storage systems, remedies, books and more. From a single cardboard box of glass bottles in 1985, the business has grown into a limited company with turnover of £400,000 a year, nine employees and a database of over 10,000 customers, 15% of them outside the UK.
The business has products manufactured to its own specifications and supplies them via mail order wholesale to shops and clinics as well as retail to individual practitioners.
Until recently The Homeopathic Supply Company used a bespoke customer database which was able to export lists and do mail shots, but had no reporting functionality. While this was adequate to current needs, the bespoke software relied on a single programmer, had no development path and its true costs to the business were unknown. There was also no accounting system, with the company maintaining its books using Excel spreadsheets.
Realising that future growth depended on having an effective web-based shop and ordering system, founder Robert Barker considered adding a custom made web shop application before realising that it was more sensible to use the opportunity to integrate customer records, accounts and a web shop in a single package.
"We knew that any web shop development should be based on real-time stock levels and that total integration with CRM and accounts would future-proof the development of our business."
Robert Barker | Founder
The Homeopathic Supply Company considered two alternative integrated systems, one of which offered similar functionality to Standard ERP and came at a slightly lower price, but was supplied by a much smaller company. The business opted for Standard ERP because, in Barker’s words: “We wanted to choose a well-established supplier that put a lot of resources into development.”
"Technological solutions are out of date the moment you purchase, so the company you choose needs to have a proven track record and be able to demonstrate its commitment to developing the product."
Barker was impressed with Standard ERP’s tight integration between all aspects of the business and its reporting functionality. For the first time, The Homeopathic Supply Company would be able to identify and cater to different customer groups on the basis of sound information.
"We wanted to choose a well-established supplier that put a lot of resources into development."
Since implementing Standard ERP in 2005 The Homeopathic Supply Company has worked closely with HansaWorld to develop its web shop module, designed specifically for the needs of business-to-consumer web retailers. The company has also requested some customisation to enable it to store details of credit card transactions for batch processing.
Even before the implementation of the web shop, The Homeopathic Supply Company has enjoyed the seamless movement between processes offered by the system, as well as the sophisticated reporting functionality.
Standard ERP has also enabled the business to re-organise its pricing structure, revealing areas where its gross margins where not satisfactory. The remote accessibility of the system has been another primary attraction, with the owner's son using it remotely from Australia for six months – and, as Barker says, “I don’t have to come into the office to go to work.”
Barker says the business has been able to adapt Standard ERP to its own practices, although “its potential to cater to much larger businesses means some parts of it are still not used by us.”
In the long term, Barker looks forward to being able to access a much larger global market once the web shop is operational.
"Having the right staff and the right technology are the two most important decisions you will make in ensuring the smooth running of a business. If you want to future-proof then you need to buy greater functionality than you currently think you need."