AT A GLANCE
Retail / e-commerce
- System-centric startup to support growth
- One-stop-shop across physical and online
- Agile capability to adapt over time
N2 ERP by First Software
- Single system over a decade of growth – no change disruptions
- Ongoing improvement & innovation from partnership
- Stock efficiency and accuracy
- Customer satisfaction
N2 ERP provides big assist…
As a startup business owner entering a highly competitive field – so to speak – a decade ago, Players Sports managing director Mike Wood had some tough decisions to make. Capital is always limited and its allocation means the make or break of a fledgling business; among the competing priorities were staff, premises, stock and the equipment to make the company run. But the one area where he decided to make an outsized allocation was software – and by selecting a fully-featured Enterprise Resource Planning solution with First Software’s n2, Wood set Players up for success from day one.
It was a decision that has withstood the test of time as the highly successful specialist online retailer provided the foundation upon which two brick and mortar locations has been built.
Players Sports is any sports nut’s mecca. Focusing on cricket, rugby, tennis, netball, rugby league, basketball, football, squash, hockey, badminton, futsal and licensed supporters’ gear it caters to all players’ needs. Expert staff select the best products produced by global brands and used by the world’s top athletes, providing customers across New Zealand with a complete sports shop experience. Physical stores are located in Onehunga and St Johns in Auckland, stocking renowned brands including Adidas, Asics, Nike, Gilbert, Kookaburra, Gunn & Moore, Yonex, Wilson and many more. Players offers a cricket bat workshop with professional craftsmanship and knocking-in services, and racquet stringing services recognised amongst the best in New Zealand. Players Sports is proudly New Zealand owned and operated.
While it seems every store under the sun offers specialist sporting equipment, the opposite is true. Locating quality items like top end cricket bats or the racquets used by tennis professionals is in fact not that easy. Recognising this ‘it’s right in front of your face but you can’t see it’ gap in the market, Wood established Players Sports in 2012 with the initial intention of building a retail business. “Online was already a thing back then, but not hugely. From the start we were conscious of building a team with the right expertise, and then working out a number of things and trying to fit everything into a budget,” Wood recalls.
“They’re like another staff member for us. Not a day goes by that you don’t hear n2 mentioned”
“One thing we thought important from day one was fully integrated software that could handle everything from brick and mortar through to a website, accounting and stock control all integrated. It seemed like a no brainer even then, and looking back now, it seems so even more.”
ERP, he agrees, was more software than the startup needed at the time. “We engaged with the senior leadership at First Software and they painted the benefits very clearly, explaining that if we wanted to be a one stop shop, we needed one stop software capable of handling it all. Looking back now, I can only imagine the time we’ve saved, the hassle, the energy and the headaches, by choosing software which met our needs then, and still meets our needs precisely even though we are today a greatly expanded business.”
It was, however, not an easy decision at the time. “When you’re starting with a zero sales base, you have to be careful where money is spent. But we knew we wanted to grow and we therefore knew we needed the capacity to scale from the first day – whether into new locations, which we tried, or into an online superstore, which is where we eventually went. All along the way, growth has been easy, seamless and getting things done just a phone call away,” Wood explains.
Straight out of the gate, Players Sports implemented First Software’s n2 modules including eCommerce Engine, Purchasing and Sales Order, B2B Online, Warehousing, Complex Freight Calculations, Marketplace Integration, Forecasting and Customer/Supplier Integration. In due course, First Software’s NZ Post Integration would be added, accelerating a crucial aspect of fulfilment by improving communication between Players and its logistics provider.
Wood says even in the early days, First Software was (and still is) integral to Players Sports’ operations. “They’re like another staff member for us. Not a day goes by that you don’t hear n2 mentioned in this place, because the software really helps the business hum.”
Flexibility has proven indispensable for the company. When it tried opening multiple retail locations, First Software meant ease of extending systems to those premises. “Over the years we’ve tried different things and taken various risks to see what works. Sure, we’ve had growing pains, but our software wasn’t one of them,” quips Wood.
This included spreading out around Auckland, both in terms of retail premises in Albany and Newmarket, and putting warehousing in different places including a container depot at one stage. “We soon found this didn’t really work, as locating stock became difficult if someone ordered a cricket bat and rugby jersey and these were in different places. It becomes complicated – not from a software perspective, but a physical one.”
An increased focus on online sales combined with consolidation into a single headquarters in Onehunga from which a retail shopfront operates, with one satellite location at the Scarbro Tennis Centre (St Johns). “With 95% of our stock in one place we process orders faster and keep customers happier,” says Wood. “But what stands out from a software point of view is that whatever we tried, whether we expanded out or contracted back in, First Software could do it, fast and without any hassle. Software was never a limiting factor.”
Understanding from day one that every sportsperson wants immersion in their own game, Players Sports split out its site into ‘vertical’ portals for specific sports. “Cricket players don’t want to see basketball stuff,” Wood points out. Wood points out. “So, we have specific sites for Players Cricket, Players Hockey, Players Rugby, and so on, but still offer generic items like socks across them all.”
Behind every portal is First Software. “They’ve made templates that work, which means every time we setup a new portal, it’s rapid and we can tailor the experience for our customers. It means we’re able to specialise and immerse customers in their preferred sport, offer thousands and thousands of products, and achieve amazing efficiency.”
While software plays a key part in powering Players to an organisation offering thousands of products to satisfied sportspeople across New Zealand, there is another aspect about which Wood is equally enthusiastic. “First Software is a trusted partner. Software is one thing; the people who make it work quite another. We’ve received countless respectful and professional suggestions and recommendations over the years which have benefited the business. They understand what we do and how we do it, so they know what we might want and what we need.”
Integration is a big deal too, says Wood. “That’s not only within the different areas of the business, but also out to our suppliers; the word ‘integration’ comes up all the time because by linking all facets of our business, there is no guesswork. We know, rather than assume.”
Finally, he says the feature most valued from N2 ERP is real time data. “It’s gold. A snapshot of the day, the week or the month, is at your fingertips. You can have all the gut feel you like, but when digging into sales analysis, product performance, customer satisfaction, nothing beats accurate to-the-minute information.”
Could Players Sports have done it without First Software? “Maybe,” says Wood. “But the question is, would we want to do it differently? No way.”
About This Vendor
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