BT acquires e-commerce firm

BT today announced the acquisition of Fresca, the UK-based specialist retail e-commerce service provider.

Established in 2000 and headquartered in High Wycombe, Fresca provides managed and hosted e-commerce services to over 20 retailers and e-tailers, including Mosaic Fashions (whose brands include Oasis, Karen Millen, Warehouse, Shoe Studio, Principles and Coast), Thomas Pink, Great Little Trading Company, Habitat, Moss, Phase Eight, Whistles and Harvey Nichols.

Helen Slaven, chief executive of BT Expedite, told IT PRO its acquisition would allow the BT retail technology division to offer a complete e-commerce platform, and customisable web store front using the integration capabilities of the Fresca e-commerce engine.

"The key thing it brings us is the hosted e-commerce retail capability. We have supplied point of sale [POS] and merchandising systems to customers and the next thing they ask for is e-commerce. Now we can offer them that," she said, adding more technology roadmap details would be ready in spring.

Gavin Wilkinson, Fresca chief technology officer, said: "Multichannel retailing is becoming more and more important, but at the same time can be a very difficult, time-consuming and risky thing to implement. Some 80 per cent of the work involves integrating the POS and merchandising systems with the web front end, call centres and other areas of the business."

He added that BT Fresca would offer pre-configured functionality that was ready, out-of-the box, to integrate into a retailer's IT infrastructure. "That includes a joint store and web interface, CRM (customer relationship management), the whole piece," he said. "That means we can offer multichannel functions like 'click-to-collect,' for example.

Alex Kwiatkowski, Datamonitor lead vertical markets analyst, agreed the deal made sense for both companies. "Retail is currently a very aggressive sector and this deal shows BT realises the optimum set-up is both a High Street and online presence," he said.

"Fresca seems quite a modest sized operation, so it shouldn't be too complicated to get it integrated and producing blended, out-of-the-box products quite quickly. My only concern is that Fresca seems very fashion oriented, which is a sector that has no 'use by' dates, for example. So I'd expect to see products taking the expertise of Fresca and combining it with the strength of BT's delivery mechanisms. They just have to make sure they don't rush something out to the grocery market without the flexibility to adapt to the different business processes."

BT is acquiring the shares in Fresca from the management and employees. And the gross assets of the company as at 31 March 2007 were 850,000.

Miya Knights

A 25-year veteran enterprise technology expert, Miya Knights applies her deep understanding of technology gained through her journalism career to both her role as a consultant and as director at Retail Technology Magazine, which she helped shape over the past 17 years. Miya was educated at Oxford University, earning a master’s degree in English.

Her role as a journalist has seen her write for many of the leading technology publishers in the UK such as ITPro, TechWeekEurope, CIO UK, Computer Weekly, and also a number of national newspapers including The Times, Independent, and Financial Times.