Software group sets up centre of app expertise

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Software company Sanderson has named South Yorkshire as a centre of expertise for developing apps for iPads and mobile devices.

The group, which was spun out of a Sheffield manufacturing business almost 30 years ago, specialises in developing software for multi-channel retailers – who sell over the internet, by mail order and through shops - and manufacturing businesses.

Although its South Yorkshire operation focuses on manufacturing, the first app combines both business streams and was developed for Dewsbury-based bespoke furniture manufacturer HSL.

The app allows customers to design their own chair by combining different features the firm offers and then generates a bill of materials which HSL uses when it constructs the chair.

Sanderson chairman Christopher Winn says apps could be a big growth area for both Sanderson’s retail and manufacturing operations and Sheffield would be a centre of expertise and specialised development for the firm.

Six months ago we could just see the expansion of e-commerce, now we can see huge opportunities for mobile solutions across all markets,” said Mr Winn.

“Our job is to get on the back of that and see we keep in front.”

Sanderson has re-enforced its commitment to supplying the manufacturing sector, which represents about 25 per cent of its business now, despite predictions it might sell the business earlier this year, when it chose, instead, to sell its retail point of sale business to former partner Torex.

“Manufacturing created the group. We have been in it for 30 years and we have a fantastic name and reputation, but it’s a difficult market to grow. Looking at the medium term we find it hard to see where there will be growth on the high street, but we can see growth in e-commerce,” said Mr Winn, explaining the decision to withdraw from the electronic point of sale market.

The sale of that business raised £11.75 million and has enabled the group to repay bank debt, while retaining a net cash balance of £3.56 million.

Sanderson believes it has recovered from tough times in 2009, when it had to issue profit warnings and says it plans to build up cash from continuing trading operations, although it does not rule out making small acquisitions.

The group increased operating profit for the six months to the end of March from £750,000 to £800,000 on sales from continuing operations of £6.14 million – down from £7.04 million.

It has declared an interim dividend of 0.5p a share, up from 0.3p for the same period last year.