PracticePeople In PracticeSage facing fresh market challenges

Sage facing fresh market challenges

Sage's position as the unchallenged leader of small business accounts software may be under threat after an independent survey found it had slipped into second place.

According to the latest retail figures from independent industry retail monitor Chart-Track, which looked at sales for May, QuickBooks held retail sales amounting to 50% of the accounts software market, while Sage Instant Accounting sold 39%.

This figure follows its figure for the previous month, which showed Quickbooks had also outsold Instant Accounting through April.

The two months of sales position swapping represent the first time Sage’s Instant Accounting has not been the market leader in this sector.

Intuit, the producer of Quickbooks, said the company saw the results as evidence of a shift in trend for consumers wanting simpler ways to meet their accounting needs.

Over the 12 months to May 2001, sales of QuickBooks have increased by 60.3%. Over the same period, sales of Sage have declined by 16.5%.

Reporting the figures, Dorian Bloch, director of Chart-Track, said: ‘The SME accountancy software market has always been dominated by Sage and Intuit. And of these two, Sage has always been the market leader.

‘These most recent figures, however, show Intuit’s QuickBooks has replaced Sage’s Instant Accounting as the market leader in retail sales.’

Neil Atkins, marketing director at Intuit, said: ‘This reinforces our view that small businesses want a quick and easy solution to maintaining their books.

‘We’ve always been committed to providing software for SMEs – and we now aim to work with small businesses and grow the category.’

However, Sage disputed the figures and pointed out the figures would entirely depend on which retail outlets Chart-Track had used.

A spokeswoman for Sage, added defiantly: ‘Our figures tell a different story.’Chart-Track undertakes quantitative retail research based on over-the-counter retail sales where the data is captured electronically each day from retailers’ EPoS systems.

But there were indications this week that a low-end accounting software war in the UK could involve three copmanies.

To compound Sage’s worries, reports from across the Atlantic suggest Microsoft Great Plains could be preparing for an assault on the market too. At a technology conference hosted by US accounting body the American Institute of CPAs, Great Plains revealed its plans to branch out of the mid market, where the Fargo-based software company previously concentrated its fire.

Code-named ‘Blue’, the new software will be designed for companies with less than $5m (£3.55m) in annual revenue and with five to 25 employees.In the US, MS Great Plains’ first target will be users who have outgrown QuickBooks, but cannot afford to jump to the MS Great Plains Dynamics range.

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