Last week saw Compaq's retail strategy become a reality with the opening of its first eight Compaq Connect stores in Melbourne and Brisbane.
And Compaq insists that, instead of competing with its existing resellers, the Compaq Connect stores will refer its existing channel-served customers back to their channel partners.
According to Robert Balmer, Compaq's business manager, consumer, Compaq can't stop anyone coming into the shop, but it can control its outbound sales activities, which he claimed will be restricted to non-Compaq customers. Any known existing customers that come into a CC store will be referred to their existing account management team, he said.
Compaq's dedicated small business and expert consumer Web site and call centre also began operations last week, completing Compaq's new distribution model.
A range of small business products to fill both the online and street stores, including an upgraded Presario range, the recently released Prosignia desktops, notebooks and servers and the new NeoServer, are available immediately.
Compaq's online site (http://www.buy. compaq.com.au) aims to satisfy a more "transaction-based customer" and has a limited range of third-party products compared to the bricks and mortar stores, said Balmer.
The stores are located at Bennettswood, Brighton, Richmond, Mitcham and Dandenong in Melbourne and Aspley, Carindale and the Brisbane CBD in Queensland, locations the vendor's research identified as harbouring the small businesses it wants to target.
The stores are divided into three sections correlating with Compaq's target markets: small businesses, homeowners and Internet solutions, with tailored packages offered in each section.
Leasing options are available through Compaq Financial Services.
The outlets will concentrate on offering each commercial segment three services: inbound sales, outbound sales and configuration capabilities. The configuration centre will also be made available to Compaq's existing channel, with negotiations on the specifics of this arrangement underway with several channel partners, according to Balmer.
The stores will carry around four to five days of stock, most of it promised to be configure-to-order products.
Bennettswood's store manager, Simon Haggard, claimed there will be a 24- to 48-hour turnaround for build-to-order machines. If a certain store is busy there is a "floating assembly resource" that can move around to each store as it is required.
Compaq Connect stores will initially have a manager, one store-based salesperson, two mobile salespeople (who will canvass local businesses), and an engineer.
Balmer suggested the retail and Internet strategy, as part of Compaq's greater supply chain remodelling policy, will be able to offer more aggressively priced products and services. "There will be product parity wherever you buy a Compaq product," reassured Balmer. "But Compaq can now ensure better prices through its re-engineered supply chain."
For example, an entry-level Presario, now $1999, will be $300 cheaper in any Compaq outlet - whether it's Compaq's own or one of its channel partners - and Balmer bragged that Compaq can now beat Dell on price, if it wanted to.
Compaq Connect stores also stock a range of peripherals such as software, Big Pond Internet access and mobile phones.
What will not be available directly through the stores are more sophisticated services. "From day one we will come across existing customers that want to work directly with Compaq. But we will work with our channel to provide solutions. The stores will act as a facilitator for other products and services and we will refer customers on to our resellers."