Founded in 1804, the Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) is the UK’s leading gardening charity.
With a community counting over 500,000 members, the RHS promotes horticulture through five gardens across the UK (located in Wisley, Harlow Carr, Hyde Hall, Rosemoor, and Bridgewater), flower shows, an annual gardening competition, and a vast educational program for professional and amateur gardeners. The RHS also sells items like books, gifts, and plants in retail shops in all its five gardens, and via an online store. The RHS funds its projects using the income from its gardens, shows, and shops, plus the revenue from members’ subscriptions and sponsorships.
The RHS has been entrusting its business to LS Retail solutions for over 16 years. Initially they used the software to manage the finance and retail side of the business.
After using the same version for many years, the RHS realized they needed to upgrade to a later version to support their growth. The initiative was part of the RHS’s new vision of moving towards a fully digital environment. RHS contacted technology company iDyam Solutions to get the professional support needed for their digital transformation.
RHS knew they wanted to continue with their current solution, which is built on Microsoft technology. “The RHS positions Microsoft as a strategic partner, a lot of what we do is built on or integrated with Microsoft technology. This has been a major influence in why we chose to stay, rather than looking for an alternative,” says Jon Simpson, Director of IT at the RHS.
LS Retail's unified commerce software, an all-in-one solution that extends the Microsoft Dynamics 365 Business Central ERP with retail functionality, was selected as RHS’s new software solution. LS Retail’s software met all the RHS’s business requirements:
- It’s a proven solution in the market.
- It’s flexible. “The RHS goes through some major strategic focuses every so often, so the system would need to be able to perform with new ideas,” says Bill Tomlinson, Operations Director at iDyam Solutions.
- It’s easy to use, requiring minimum employee training. This was especially important to the charity, as they often run big events like the Chelsea Flower Show and Hampton Court Palace Garden Festival, which require temporary staff.
- It’s cost-effective. As a charity that relies completely on supporters for their funding, the RHS needed technology that could provide a clear ROI.
LS Retail certified partner iDyam Solutions took over from another partner to manage the reimplementation. When changing supplier, the RHS wanted to go back to an out-of-the-box software solution. “One of the reasons to do the whole reimplementation was to allow us a more robust and standard upgrade path, and to remove as much customization as we could,” says Lynn Moore, Senior Project Manager at the RHS.
The team decided to break the project into phases, first keeping the system as standard as possible. They’d run an extension upgrade later, always with the goal of staying on the latest technology.
The implementation went smoothly, despite a few challenges around rolling the system out due to gaps between the original version and the upgrade. “There was a slight change of architecture and instructions that we implemented to make things simple in the future, taking the project to the next level,” adds Tomlinson. “While the implementation went on, we also had to deal with shop floor people working, including temporary ones, permanent ones, and people in training. A technology upgrade is always a challenge, no matter the system,” says Tomlinson.
The Covid-19 pandemic added some complexity to the rollout. “Managing everything virtually and remotely is not always easy, and for some parts we couldn’t get people on site,” says Moore. Jon Simpson adds that handling change management with many people working remotely was a big challenge.
Data management also caused some complexities. “The RHS went from using a technology for 15 years to a different data structure. There was a lot of data involved that had to be analyzed, cleansed, and finally moved,” adds Tomlinson.
The RHS team is very pleased with the support they get from their technology partner. “iDyam Solutions has been very supportive of our knowledge gaps. They are building that knowledge share, which is important. They're more a referral partner than a supplier, which is what we wanted,” says Moore. iDyam Solutions says their goal is to help the RHS to maximize the benefits of their software solution. “They know the product very well both technically and from a business perspective. Going forward, it will be nice to see some of the other areas that we can possibly look at,” concludes Moore.
Today, six RHS retail sites run on LS Retail technology. The company uses the software to manage their retail and sales business, including supply chain, sales orders, order fulfillment, and financing. Using LS Retail software gave the RHS the full benefits of unified commerce. The RHS can use just one single platform to manage:
- Retail activities in their garden centers
- Finances, excluding charitable finances
- Books and gifts eCommerce sales and inventory
- Data, including product, sales, and customers
“LS Retail certainly satisfies our requirements as a charity,” says Moore. The new system has allowed the RHS to springboard on other functionality, such as moving to automated replenishment. “From a point of sales perspective, the system is very good at the tills, it does all the replenishment,” continues Moore.
The RHS also decided to change their eCommerce platform at the same time, as their old platform had reached end of life and had issues with the servers and operating systems. During the pandemic, the company observed a 300-400% increase in eCommerce sales. “We weren't expecting it to take off quite as brilliantly as it did,” says Moore. The RHS could rely on LS Retail software to help them manage this boom of online orders. “LS Retail Software solution supported this increase in sales from all aspects – sales order capture, fulfilment, dispatch and stock replenishment allowing the RHS to continue giving excellent customer service during a period of unprecedented trading,” says Moore.
In the future, RHS plans to focus more on eCommerce and enhance the customer experience. RHS will also start a new exploration phase to integrate their ticketing operations and CRM solutions.
The RHS is confident that LS Retail and iDyam Solutions will support them to achieve their strategic objectives and put their products out to members and the wider public.