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Archived news - August 2009

The Barcode Warehouse has blossomed with staff numbers and profits rising

Telegraph - Ross Lee explains how his Barcode Warehouse business has risen from strength-to-strength during the economic crisis

When Ross Lee was made redundant from the Central Electricity Generating Board 15 years ago, he turned his back on his job as a welder and created a specialist printing business producing labels.

"Everything that moves has a label, whether it's a mobile phone, a parcel or pallet of bricks," he says. Importantly, a lot of those labels carry bar codes and inspired by his brother who built self adhesive labelling machines, Lee set out to create a business supplying the coded labels.

Business is booming. Helped by the recent launch of a managed service division - which has just picked up two lucrative five year contracts - and a expanding ecommerce site, The Barcode Warehouse is seeing sales and profits increase.

Turnover is now just over £16m (of which £5m comes from website sales) and with a staff of 100 and 18,000 customers the Newark, Nottinghamshire-based business is gearing up for continued growth. Postal services such as Royal Mail, TNT, DHL and Parcel Force account for 35pc of the entire Barcode Warehouse business.

"Here we are building a business and hiring and training people ready to expand yet we are in the depths of a recession," says chairman, Lee, 61. "In the past 12 months we have seen 20pc growth. We have taken on 20 new people in the past three months and because we have won two major contracts, we will be needing even more staff to support it.

"It's been an exciting journey, starting up a barcode labelling business, expanding into selling the printers and readers online and now selling and supporting handheld computers as part of a fully managed service is something I could never have imagined.

"We now have three divisions. We still produce the original barcode labels but we also produce full colour labels, tickets and tags: anything that is attached to anything, in fact. But as well as that original consumables division, we now have the managed service and the e-commerce side," he adds.

"The success of the website for bar-coding equipment has surprised us. I thought it would plateau this year but we are having record sales, with over 34,000 unique visitors a month."

But what has given the greatest boost to The Barcode Warehouse is its move into managed services, picking up contracts with Royal Mail and home delivery courier company Hermes (formerly Parcelnet) along the way.

"With the managed service, customers get everything from the hardware and software to technical support and repair, all from one supplier. For Royal Mail we supplied 27,500 mobile computers for postmen delivering signed-for items, adding the software, repairs and technical support with a 24/7 helpdesk.

"This is a growing part of the business because it means anyone who has a workforce out on the road such as parcel carriers, utilities, field service or the police, can get the staff working smarter because they are in touch with the business."

With its latest win - 7,500 mobile computers for Hermes - The Barcode Warehouse is currently supporting 40,000 devices. "We are aiming to get to 200,000 in next three years," says Lee.