Software firm discovers gold seams in clothing

THE FASHION business, generally considered as unhealthy as any in the current recession, has proved a surprisingly profitable niche for a young computer software company, writes Roger Trapp.

Just six years after being founded, Prologic, based at Berkhamsted in Hertfordshire, numbers a clutch of household names among more than 30 clothing clients, employs a score of people and is on the way to pre-tax profits of pounds 150,000 on turnover of pounds 1.8m.

Prologic's managing director, Sam Jackson, admits the market gap was found more by accident than design. Having started as a 'fairly unfocused' computer consultant in 1984, he found himself after two years doing a lot of work in the clothing business. He discovered there was a trend towards vertical integration, with wholesalers getting into retail and retailers making garments.

There were problems associated with the fashion business's belated embrace of modern technology, however. And Mr Jackson and his product development director, Karen Rankin, set about establishing an integrated solution.

Known as Prologic CIMS, the computerised management system - specially designed for the fashion industry - is able to link retail, manufacturing and distribution. By incorporating point of sale, stock control and order processing, it can supply the user with up-to-the-minute information at the press of a button.

'We don't think of retailers and wholesalers, but of source and destination. The users buy various modules that meet their needs,' said Mr Jackson, who believes his company is the only one covering the whole business cycle of the fashion industry.

Gaining Katherine Hamnett as a client gave the fledgling company early credibility, and since then a number of top-drawer names - from Arabella Pollen to Paul Smith - have signed up for the service.

Most recently, Aquascutum, the upmarket clothing company acquired two years ago by Renown International of Japan, and Hackett, the London-based men's outfitter recently bought by Dunhill Holdings, have signed up.

As the third largest industry in Britain, the fashion business has plenty of potential, says Mr Jackson. There are still plenty of opportunities for companies with the right merchandise and superior management, he says. And with mergers likely to introduce more profit-motivated management to the sector, he is confident about the future.

Although he confesses that over-optimism led to his company making a loss last year, he says the experience has proved beneficial in the long term. 'We thought we were on target for expansion, but a lot of sales just evaporated.'

In order to strengthen the balance sheet, Prologic was obliged to obtain a pounds 240,000 investment from BCS Computing, a venture capital operation specialising in the field.

BCS has also supplied two non-executive directors, Michael Brooke and Gordon Skinner, to fill gaps in management expertise.

At present, the firm has an order book worth pounds 350,000 - and with 2,800 prospects, the market is big enough to stand expansion for some time to come. Mr Jackson's research suggests that 60 per cent of companies in the fashion business do not use computers. Those that do have the technology tend to confine it to accounts and the like rather than running the business.

'The attitude of the old owner-director in the business was 'I could buy a Jag for the cost of a computer',' Mr Jackson said. 'But that's changing.'

(Photograph omitted)

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

SThree: Talent Acquisition Consultant

£22500 - £27000 per annum + OTE £45K: SThree: Since our inception in 1986, STh...

Recruitment Genius: Experienced Financial Advisers and Paraplanners

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This extremely successful and well-established...

Guru Careers: FX Trader / Risk Manager

Competitive with monthly bonus: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced FX...

Guru Careers: Investment Writer / Stock Picker

Competitive (Freelance) : Guru Careers: An Investment Writer / Stock Picker is...

Day In a Page

Lionel, Patti, Burt and The Who rock Glasto

Lionel, Patti, Burt and The Who rock Glasto

This was the year of 24-carat Golden Oldies
Paris Fashion Week

Paris Fashion Week

Thom Browne's scarecrows offer a rare beacon in commercial offerings
A year of the caliphate:

Isis, a year of the caliphate

Who can defeat the so-called 'Islamic State' – and how?
Marks and Spencer: Can a new team of designers put the spark back into the high-street brand?

Marks and Spencer

Can a new team of designers put the spark back into the high-street brand?
'We haven't invaded France': Italy's Prime Minister 'reclaims' Europe's highest peak

'We haven't invaded France'

Italy's Prime Minister 'reclaims' Europe's highest peak
Isis in Kobani: Why we ignore the worst of the massacres

Why do we ignore the worst of the massacres?

The West’s determination not to offend its Sunni allies helps Isis and puts us all at risk, says Patrick Cockburn
7/7 bombings 10 years on: Four emergency workers who saved lives recall the shocking day that 52 people were killed

Remembering 7/7 ten years on

Four emergency workers recall their memories of that day – and reveal how it's affected them ever since
Humans: Are the scientists developing robots in danger of replicating the hit Channel 4 drama?

They’re here to help

We want robots to do our drudge work, and to look enough like us for comfort. But are the scientists developing artificial intelligence in danger of replicating the TV drama Humans?
Time to lay these myths about the Deep South to rest

Time to lay these myths about the Deep South to rest

'Heritage' is a loaded word in the Dixie, but the Charleston killings show how dangerous it is to cling to a deadly past, says Rupert Cornwell
What exactly does 'one' mean? Court of Appeal passes judgement on thorny mathematical issue

What exactly does 'one' mean?

Court of Appeal passes judgement on thorny mathematical issue
E L James's book Grey is a reminder of how the phenomenon of the best-seller works

Grey is a reminder of how the phenomenon of the best-seller works

It's hard to understand why so many are buying it – but then best-selling was ever an inexact science, says DJ Taylor
Behind the scenes of the world's most experimental science labs

World's most experimental science labs

The photographer Daniel Stier has spent four years gaining access to some of the world's most curious scientific experiments
It's the stroke of champions - so why is the single-handed backhand on the way out?

Single-handed backhand: on the way out?

If today's young guns wish to elevate themselves to the heights of Sampras, Graf and Federer, it's time to fire up the most thrilling shot in tennis
HMS Saracen: Meeting the last survivor of a submarine found 72 years after it was scuttled

HMS Saracen

Meeting the last survivor of a submarine found 72 years after it was scuttled
7/7 bombings 10 years on: Martine Wright lost both legs in the attack – she explains how her experience since shows 'anything is possible'

7/7 bombings 10 years on

Martine Wright lost both legs in the attack – she explains how her experience since shows 'anything is possible'