Merlinsoft, a Barnsley company specialising in software for the visitor attraction, retail and charity sector, has seen its income more than double almost overnight, after it released new software which enables venues to take bookings online, following the easing of UK lockdown restrictions.
Back in March 2020, Merlinsoft, like many other companies, had to furlough its entire workforce for three months. Owen Gleadall, Managing Director of Merlinsoft explains: “The lockdown meant ticket sales dropped to nothing, so we had no option other than to furlough our staff. Once restrictions were eased, we started bringing people back in late June, as we recognised that PYO Farms were looking for software to help them meet Covid-19 restrictions in enabling people to book and pay online in order to maintain social distancing and protect their staff.”
Merlinsoft further developed its Sitebuilder software, which is an on-line product that can be used by any businesses such as Pick your own Farms to create ‘slots’ for the whole day with a just a few ‘clicks’. Merlinsoft takes a percentage on each booking made.
Virtually overnight, the business went from an income of around £400k per month in normal times to over £1m per month. As the visitor attraction sector started to open again, the company also actively marketed it to visitor attractions, initially for outdoor events but latterly to other activities.
Merlinsoft is now actively recruiting new staff, with support through the Sheffield City Region Growth Hub, and is looking for two more software developers and one systems support executive.
The Sheffield City Region growth hub had started working with Merlinsoft back in February to develop a new marketing strategy for the company when lockdown happened. Darren Buxton, Business Growth Specialist at Sheffield City Region, said: “I was worried for Merlinsoft when the lockdown hit as their business had clients solely in the retail and events sector. I got in touch with Owen in July to see how they were doing and it was great to hear they had been busy developing their new software to meet the changing needs of the market.”
Darren adds: “Now we are helping Merlinsoft with the recruitment of new staff, as well as looking at ways they can market their software booking solutions to pubs and restaurants, which is potentially a huge growth area. We are really excited to see how things progress for them.”
Merlinsoft has other software products waiting to go to market, including one for Sports Stadia, but with the restrictions extended for football and other sports, they are now holding this back until March. The company is also piloting a programme to enable members of networking groups to book and pay online.
Owen Gleadall said: “We never predicted what a positive impact the lockdown would have on our business. There are only a small number of companies that do what we do across the world and our challenge is to recruit more developers to help us to meet our growth aspirations. Our system is also unique in the way it allows users to create their own bookings platform, maintaining their own corporate identity and branding, in less than an hour. We are also working hard to demonstrate our expertise to the pub and restaurant trade who also need booking systems like ours to help them meet Covid-19 restrictions.”
Owen Gleadall adds: “We really want to get the message out about our software solutions to the market and we’ve entered quite a few awards recently as we are proud about what we’ve achieved.”
Merlinsoft was established over three decades ago as a business producing point of sale systems for retailers. They progressed to selling tickets for large venues and are now one of the UK’s leading software providers to venues and the retail trade, supplying both UK and international venues including the National Museum of Oman. For more details visit www.Merlinsoft.co.uk
Sheffield City Region Growth Hub can offer help to any business that is looking to re-establish or recover after making significant losses due to the Coronavirus lockdown, through its Re-Start to Growth or Re-Start to Growth+ packages. Re-Start to Growth is a free support initiative where businesses have access to experienced and skilled experts to help assess, plan and restart your business through an agreed programme of intensive support. This support comprises two full days with an experienced business consultant, which would be delivered over an agreed time period.
If further help is required after the completion of the Re-Start to Growth initiative, the business could be eligible to access additional support through Re-Start to Growth+ (Plus). This provides a further 2 days of intensive support which would be delivered over an agreed time period (limited to three months).
About SCR Growth Hub
The Sheffield City Region (SCR) Growth Hub exists to help businesses find the best possible business support. And in these unprecedented times, we are working hard to respond to and support South Yorkshire’s businesses during the Coronavirus pandemic.
The Growth Hub is open and here to help.
The Growth Hub acts as a ‘gateway’ so that your business can access support when you need it the most and within the shortest timeframe. Our team of specialists offer guidance in the fields of business development and industry support, including innovation, trade and exporting, accessing finance or training.
The Government has announced a number of schemes to help businesses during this challenging time. The Gateway team can provide more detail on each of the schemes and what they mean for you.
We are providing a series of business support updates as they arise and are working with our SCR Response Group and the Local Resilience Forum.
We are doing everything we can to protect our economy, and support jobs and businesses across South Yorkshire during this difficult time.
Please get in touch with us directly by email: firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.scrgrowthhub.co.uk/covid-19-support-for-businesses/ for updates and further help and support.
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