Delivering for the nation: behind the scenes at Sorted

Sorted is a global SaaS company that is transforming delivery and logistics for some of the biggest names in eCommerce from its HQ in the heart of Manchester city centre.

We first partnered with Sorted in 2013, buying into their vision that a strong technology platform could have a huge impact on the world of retail and logistics. They weren’t wrong.

Since 2013, Sorted has been on a transformational journey and the firm has become an essential partner to some of the biggest names in retail – from fast-fashion brands such as Missguided and ASOS to luxury operators like FarFetch.

Here we catch up with David Grimes, founder and CEO, to take a look back at Sorted’s journey over the last seven years and understand how David and his team are helping the nation’s retailers to keep moving.

About your business

  • Can you tell me a bit about your business?

We’ve been on quite a journey over the last few years – I founded Sorted in 2013 after spotting a gap in the market to build and sell a software product that would help retailers better serve their own customers through a slicker delivery system. Sorted has since evolved from an eCommerce website to a software platform that supports retailers worldwide.

We’re headquartered in Manchester and have been named one of the most exciting tech businesses in the North West, as well as one of the fastest growing in the North. That recognition is all down to the team we’ve built – we now have 120 people creating a tech platform that’s used by the likes of ASOS, Farfetch and Missguided – with our software live in 17 countries – including the US, Australia and across Europe.

Our team has created a global tech platform from scratch, and Praetura have helped us to make that happen.

The right investment partner

  • Can you tell us a bit about the journey you’ve been on with Praetura since the first investment in 2013?

I’ve worked closely with Mike Fletcher at Praetura for the last seven years. While he started off as our lead investor, he is now not only the chairman of our business and a mentor, but a friend too.

When we first went to market to raise money it was important that we partnered with an investor that would give us not only the capital we needed to expand, but the support that came alongside that was just as crucial. Mike really stood out from the crowd – he backed me, my vision for the business and he was willing to take a chance.

Since then we’ve been on a real journey together and it’s his belief in what we’re trying to achieve that has always stood out. Praetura understands the journey will be turbulent at times, but they don’t waiver when times are tough. They double down and stand by the ‘more than money’ mantra.

  • What were you looking for in an investment partner?

Culture is so important – if you’re raising money you’re not just looking for someone that you can get on with around a boardroom table, you want to be able to go and have a pint with them too.

Business success is built on people and relationships. We knew we wanted an investment partner that would get on well with our team, but one that also had a really solid network that we could draw on to bring extra talent around the table.

Praetura provide a hands-on team and they have specialists in different areas of the business that can give you the support you need, when you need it. We’ve done a lot with Ben Hatton recently to develop our sales and marketing division, as well as in the early days with Dave Foreman on financial modelling. Danny Summers sits on our Board and is a great support on the fundraising side of things.

Mike Fletcher has been hugely influential when it comes to bringing new investors to the table. He’s introduced us to Seneca, NVM and Merian Chrysalis which has meant we’ve been able to bring extra firepower on board to help us achieve our ambitions. Mike shares my vision, he understands the business inside out and he’s working with me to achieve the end goal.

It’s been an absolute journey so far and Praetura has invested over multiple rounds. Because they’re capable and willing to work with others it’s been a real success, and it’s this culture and approach that has underpinned our partnership. It’s never just been about Praetura investing because they like our business model – they bought into our team from the outset.

Overnight transformation

  • How has the business had to change/pivot its business model during the current crisis?

There’s no denying it was a massive change overnight as we sent 120 people off to work remotely. This presented a leadership challenge, but we were well prepared – everyone already had the technology needed to work from home and we actually went ahead of the government lockdown. This meant we’d been able to stress test our VPN systems so there was no dip in service. We are also lucky in the sense that we’re used to some of our teams working remotely – we have 35 people in Belarus so video calls weren’t a new phenomenon!

  • Have the changes been successful?

Our whole team upped their game and rallied together to get things done, which meant there was no disruption for customers. Communication has been great and this has definitely kept everyone going – sometimes I worry that there are too many video calls, but it does bring everyone together and has definitely had a positive impact on team wellbeing.

We’ve also recruited 20 new starters during the lockdown, including a new CTO – we’ve held interviews over video call and onboarded people remotely. This is a real challenge for anyone starting a new job, but we’ve had rave feedback on how supported they feel and it’s vital that we look after our people.

We’re lucky to be in a position where we are creating jobs and the pandemic has opened my eyes to a more flexible working policy that will allow us to recruit outside of Manchester and broaden our catchment areas. We’re likely to do a lot more remotely moving forward – as long as we have the right people and the right technology, there’s no reason we can’t be even more flexible.

  • Has consumer demand changed during the crisis and how is this affecting the way you work?

Our platform allows retailers to deliver products to their customers as quickly, efficiently and cost-effectively as possible, and that’s helped many retailers keep going throughout lockdown. We’ve seen customers put record volumes through the platform and there have been huge spikes in categories we wouldn’t usually see at this time of year – everything from homeware and beauty products, to loungewear and fast fashion as people moved their Friday night drinks from the pub onto a Zoom call.

We’ve also had an influx of new customers over the last three months, and those retailers that weren’t prioritising investment in tech are now realising its an area they need to focus on.

  • Are you able to share any examples of innovation from retailers/customers that shine a light on how the sector is adapting during this crisis?

One of our customers, Homebase, having just invested in Sorted technology, saw a four-fold increase in their shipping volumes once lockdown happened. Clearly people took the opportunity to do DIY whilst stuck at home. Homebase told us they would not have been able to cope with this surge in demand without having Sorted tech in place.

We also signed a new major sports fashion retailer during the lockdown as they wanted to change the way they were shipping out stock to customers. With all their stores closed, there was a huge amount of stock in shops across the UK and Europe and they wanted to be able to ship directly from store, rather than moving stock to their main warehouse and shipping from there. We’ve since gone live in the UK, France and Germany and the tech roll-out is enabling them to distribute its stock to customers in a faster, cheaper and more sustainable way.

We’ve adopted a similar model with FarFetch – one of Europe’s fastest growing luxury retailers – and our tech is allowing them to ship from small boutiques across the UK, France, Germany and Spain. By taking a step out of the supply chain – where the stock is sent from a boutique to the main warehouse – we’re helping our customers to save money and improve the efficiency of their operation.

Another customer, Mulberry, expanded with us by taking on our SortedREACT product – to enable them to give their customers proactive and timely branded communications about when their delivery would arrive. Mulberry saw a significant reduction in ‘Where is my order’ calls as a result of using SortedREACT.

  • What does the future hold for the retail and delivery sector?

The shift from store to online will definitely accelerate and I’d expect things to start happening around five years earlier than previously predicted. Online sales have always been a relatively small percentage of overall sales, but the tide is turning. We’ll also see this change the physical nature of stores and how people interact – they will become experience centres and act as a showcase for brands.

The importance of delivery will also increase – consumers are demanding faster speeds, better communication, more choice and more flexibility. Retailers will have to respond if they want to keep up with the likes of Amazon. Sorted technology can help retailers compete with Amazon when it comes to delivery.

Moving forward

  • Where do you see Sorted after the immediate priority has passed, and in five years from now?

My vision for Sorted is to be the intrinsic tech platform for delivery in the global eCommerce market. I want people to think of delivery and then to think of Sorted.

We will continue to grow in Manchester, as well as globally, and innovation will remain at the core of what we do. By investing in our team and in our technology, we will continue to support retailers worldwide by helping them to improve their own customers’ delivery experience.

Our goal is to dominate the landscape when it comes to global delivery.

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