Montreal-based retail tech company Lightspeed has launched a supplier network for North American retailers that allows merchants to order and manage stock on the company’s point-of-sale (POS) system.
The Lightspeed Supplier Network will initially be available for bike, outdoor sport, jewelry and pet product retailers. Lightspeed stated plans to roll out the system to all of its retailers in the near future.
“It’s just the first piece of a lot of what we have coming over the next couple years.”
Amid increased supply chain pressure due to COVID-19, the company claims the stock ordering and management network will help even the playing field between small merchants and retail and e-commerce giants.
“This new tool enables independent businesses to discover new products, more easily sell online and make better use of their capital to strategically increase order frequency,” said Dax Dasilva, founder and CEO of Lightspeed. “The disruption of 2020 cemented the need for SMBs to use technology to remain agile and the Supplier Network is deeply in line with Lightspeed’s mission to strengthen their operational resilience.”
Founded in 2005, Lightspeed provides cloud-based POS and e-commerce software for small businesses. The publicly traded company operates in over 100 countries, with more than 1,000 staff located in Canada, the United States, Europe, and Australia. Its tech helps retailers, including restaurants and online sellers, build and manage their businesses.
The new Lightspeed Supplier Network connects small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) directly to brands within the company’s platform, granting retailers access to up-to-date product catalogues, order management tools, and automated shipment handling. The company claims this will help sellers stay flexible and shift to a demand-driven inventory model.
The network also aims to help retailers discover new products and brands, and allows them to directly import product images and descriptions, a feature Lightspeed says will give suppliers increased control of product branding by increasing the likelihood that merchants use brand-approved names, pictures, and summaries.
“Lightspeed has always helped retailers understand what they have in stock, what’s selling, how much you should price it for,” Peter Dougherty, Lightspeed’s VP of partnerships told BetaKit. “What we haven’t done in the past, and where [the Lightspeed Supplier Network] now steps in, is we’re actually helping retailers place the orders and decide who they should be placing those orders with.”
Lightspeed claims this new network will “democratize SMB access to a level of strategic inventory visibility typically available only to big retailers.” Dougherty said large retailers tend to have access to more information from suppliers than SMBs because of their scale and their spending power, and often tap directly into the enterprise resource planning (ERP) software of bigger brands.
“Smaller SMBs don’t have access to that,” he said. “They can’t afford it, they don’t know who to talk to, and a brand or a supplier wouldn’t even give them access to that information.”
Dougherty claimed this kind of POS-integrated supplier network tech is rare, particularly within the SMB market that Lightspeed serves.
He said the network has been a piece of Lightspeed’s strategy for a long time. Given the supply chain pressures associated with the pandemic, it recently decided to accelerate the launch. Dougherty added that COVID-19 is “making it even harder for the smaller retailer.”
According to Dougherty, pandemic-related manufacturing delays have made it more difficult for Lightspeed’s SMB retailers to access inventory on a timely basis, and more expensive, as manufacturers have passed increased costs associated with ensuring worker safety during COVID-19 on to merchants.
Lightspeed, which launched on the TSX in March 2019, went public on the NYSE last September, raising $397 million USD and joining rarefied air as one of Canada’s few dual-listed companies. Since then, the company has been buying up retail SaaS companies. In November, Lightspeed acquired ShopKeep, a New York-based cloud commerce platform provider, for $440 million, and in December, bought Upserve, an American restaurant management software company, for $430 million.
Last year, the firm began expanding into new verticals. In 2019, Lightspeed partnered with Stripe to launch two new offerings—its own payments product for North American retailers and a business loan program for US-based SMBs—and began allowing its merchants to collect subscription revenue.
Dougherty said the new network is an “enabler” for almost everything else Lightspeed does.
“It helps us drive retailers to more easily sell online, it helps them better understand their inventory, it helps them make better buying decisions, it will drive transaction volume,” he said. “It’s just the first piece of a lot of what we have coming over the next couple years.”
Image courtesy of Lightspeed