SAP buys Canadian retail specialist

The head of a Toronto retail software company will have a special present to celebrate the firm’s 15th anniversary next month: A new owner.

Privately-held Triversity Inc., which makes point-of-sale and related applications, is being bought by SAP AG, to become the German company’s tool for expanding deeper into the retail industry.

“It’s been a great ride,” said company CEO David Thomas, a Triversity co-founder who held the firm steady through a period of flat sales four years ago. “Now I’ll be able to go much faster with the resources that I’ll have available to me.”

Jim McMurray, senior vice-president of SAP America’s retail business unit, said Triversity’s development staff here will be expanded.

SAP bought the company because its in-store systems — which range from transaction to loss prevention applications — filled a “gaping hole” in the German company’s product line, which offers back-end financial, purchasing and supply chain applications. With the purchase SAP will be able to offer a complete solution, he said.

Thomas and all of the management staff will stay, although it hasn’t been decided yet if the Triversity name will survive.

The parties refused to disclose the selling price for the Canadian firm, which has some 228 employees and 250 customers ranging from Indigo Books and Staples in Canada to the U.S. Marines’ post exchange stores. The deal needs regulatory approval in Germany but is expected to close in October.

The deal began germinating about six months ago, when Triversity started preparing to make an initial public offering. “I think our bankers ran into their bankers,” said Thomas.

Around that time SAP was in a bidding war for Retek Inc., another retail applications specialist, a fight it ultimately lost to Oracle. However, Thomas insisted that “we’re not a replacement for Retek.” The companies have a different portfolio of solutions, he said.

One main difference, he added, is there’s little overlap between Triversity’s applications and SAP’s retail solutions.

McMurray agreed. “Even if we had completed the Retek acquisition we would likely have acquitted Triversity because its solutions are much deeper and built on better technology.”

Triversity offers client-server, J2EE and Java versions of its applications.

About 90 days ago a formal offer came to Triversity’s board and it was officially approved last Friday.

Thomas then announced the deal over the weekend at the company’s annual user group conference in Phoenix.

While Triversity customers may be able to leverage SAP’s business practices and large developer base, it’s channel partners may not see much of a benefit. Solution providers include Data Systems Inc., GERS Retail Systems and OpenField and Point of Sales Systems Services. Thomas estimated that 90 per cent of the company’s sales are generated by its own sales force, and McMurray said that SAP will likely drive most sales direct.

SAP will look at whether Triversity solutions can be offered through its channel of solution providers, he said. But, he added.“I wouldn’t suggest we’ll make radical shifts.”

Triversity’s strategic partners include IBM, HP, Sun Microsystems, Microsoft, Sybase, Symbol Technologies and NCR Corp.

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Howard Solomon
Howard Solomon
Currently a freelance writer. Former editor of and Computing Canada. An IT journalist since 1997, Howard has written for several of ITWC's sister publications, including Before arriving at ITWC he served as a staff reporter at the Calgary Herald and the Brampton (Ont.) Daily Times.

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