Trago is a chain of department stores in the South West of England, located in Liskeard and Falmouth in Cornwall and Newton Abbot in Devon. Known as the South West’s original discount retailer, Trago is an independent family run business and celebrated 50 years of trading in 2015.
Trago's Business Requirement
The Trago retail business grew from humble beginnings; from a small shed on the Liskeard site in 1965 to three department stores today; with their largest store spanning 319,000 square foot in Newton Abbot. The Trago mantra is delivering value to their customers and by holding close to this ethos they have steadily grown over the years and weathered the changes in the retail sector.
After seeing significant benefits from upgrading their tills to a new electronic point of sale (EPoS) solution, the company decided to undertake a review of their back office and accounting systems to ensure their future business needs could be met. In particular they wanted greater visibility and analysis of their sales across the various stores. There was also a drive to automate the mundane and labour intensive tasks undertaken by the finance team.
Gary Lord, the Financial Director at Trago explains: ‘Trago department stores conduct more than 3 million transactions a year and we have an annual turnover in excess of £80million, yet we were still using largely paper based systems. The new EPoS system fuelled our desire to assess our wider financial and back office systems to see if there was a better way we could be working.’
Trago were initially put in touch with another IT reseller who recommended the Microsoft Dynamic NAV solution. Trago carried out a reference visit to an existing user of Dynamics NAV and during the visit the customer commented that, to get the best out of the system, Trago should partner with a solution provider that really understood their business and could tailor the solution to their needs. Gary comments: ‘This really should have been a light bulb moment for us because we were having concerns that the company we were working with hadn’t really grasped the unique requirements of our business.’
After 9 months and little progress, Trago parted company with the reseller. Gary takes up the story: ‘Dynamics NAV is a great solution, but the initial learning curve is steep. We needed a technology partner that understood our business (Retail), could explain how to tailor the solution to our specific needs and guide us in making the right choices at each stage of the set up. We hadn’t been making the progress that we had hoped for and motivation was starting to ebb. It was at this point that Ian and Matt from The NAV People stepped in.’
Ian Humphries, MD & Product Director, along with Matthew Dredge, Marketing & Sales Director, met with the Trago team to gain a deeper understanding of their requirements and what they wanted to achieve from the solution.
Gary continues: ‘I am an accountant and I don’t veer towards the dramatic but they literally arrived like knights on white horses. From that point onwards the project went from strength to strength.’
they literally arrived like knights on white horses
Tailored to meet all requirements
Trago had two specific requirements for a new system; firstly, they wanted to integrate the data from the EPoS systems across their stores into MS Dynamics NAV and in doing so make it possible to produce sales reporting that covered their entire business. Their second requirement was to improve their accounts payable process which was painstakingly slow and labour intensive.
Gary explains: ‘Trago sell 180,000 product lines. The new EPoS system gave us the ability to collate transaction data and we wanted to integrate this system with Microsoft Dynamics NAV so we could then analyse and report on this consolidated data. Previously this seemed like an impossible request but the team at The NAV People set to work immediately. We now have a functioning solution that everyone understands and finds easy to use. It integrates fully into the EPoS system, with very few problems and little management burden.’
saved us the equivalent of one full time head within the finance department
The NAV People then set about addressing the challenges with the existing accounts payable system. Trago pay approximately 3,000 different suppliers every month and have prompt payment discounts with many of them. Historically, the accounts payable process was completed manually; from printing each cheque, preparing the remittance slip, finding someone to sign the cheques right through to manually filling the envelopes and posting to suppliers.
Gary continues: ‘It was an immense and monotonous task that took approximately 40 hours per week. Microsoft Dynamics NAV comes with a built in BACS facility but we also wanted the ability to send an automated remittance slip to the suppliers. The NAV People listened to our request and delivered the functionality, completely automating this task for us. This one feature alone has not only saved us the equivalent of one full time head within the finance department but has also delivered significant cost savings in postage each year.
Driving efficiency through automation: Dimensions
Reporting was an important factor in choosing to upgrade their current accounting system. Gary and his team wanted to be able to extract the data from Microsoft Dynamics NAV into Excel where they could analyse and interrogate what was happening across the business. Microsoft Dynamics NAV has the ability to tag accounting entries via the use of Dimensions. Dimensions are a powerful way to be able to group entries and then use these groups / Dimensions for analysis purposes. The use of Dimensions was seen as a valuable feature, however the Trago team were finding the set up process with the original partner complex and daunting.
The NAV People worked closely with Gary and his finance team to define how they wanted to analyse the business and set about simplifying the set up process. Using the newly configured Dimensions, the Trago finance team can now easily perform complex reviews of things such as their expenses by vehicle, by person, by branch and by department.
Speed of reporting was also a key objective for Gary, so the team at The NAV People deployed Jet Reports, which seamlessly integrates with Microsoft Dynamics NAV to simplify and speed up the process of creating reports. The Trago finance team now use Jet Reports for fast, easy analysis and data visualisation.
Gary explains: ‘Like all accountants we love Excel; we can now get information out of Microsoft Dynamics NAV and into a spreadsheet with very little effort. It is an exceptionally quick process, as an example I can now produce the management accounts for five companies in one day, that’s how quick it is.’
The Trago finance team have fully automated all the repetitive reporting that was previously completed manually. Examples include:
Week-on-week sales across all departments, by store
Year-on-year analysis of weekly sales figures
Weekly stock levels across 180,000-product lines, delivering a single summarised report on successful lines and highlighting problem areas.
Gary comments: ‘Previously it would have taken several people a significant amount of time to collate information in order to deliver a comprehensive report to management. Now the various reports are set up to run automatically overnight on a weekly basis and are emailed to the management team.’
without doubt we would not have the working solution we have today without them
Business clarity: The ability to analyse and report on sales figures across all stores has enhanced decision making within the Trago organisation and enabled the company to be more agile and responsive to retail trends.
Improved productivity: Deploying Microsoft Dynamics NAV has automated manual processes allowing employees to focus on more complex and strategic undertakings. This increased efficiency has enabled the existing team to manage a greater workload that would have previously necessitated an increase in headcount.
Cost savings: Greater analysis of business expenses has enabled improved management and control of overheads. Automating the process of paying 3,000 suppliers each month has not only saved Trago headcount but also postage costs, resulting in a direct saving of several thousands of pounds per year.
Gary concludes: ‘The Trago business model is a very simple one; we purchase goods and then we sell them. Understanding which stock lines are successful and which are failing is imperative to our business. The NAV People took a forensic approach to understanding our business, they asked questions and really listened to our requirements. They delivered a solution tailored to us and were unfazed by any of our questions or requests. We have been a customer of The NAV People for more than 3 years and without doubt we would not have the working solution we have today without them.’Read more