Opportunity knocks

Opportunity knocks

When Gunter Jank bought Computers Cash and Carry in 1992 he saw an opportunity. And he's never looked back.

Starting out in the IT industry in 1973, Gunter Jank had spells with Unysis, Wang and as a state manager for Digital Equipment before Perth retail shop CCC caught his eye. Simply put, "I saw a future in it", Jank said.

Since then Jank and CCC have seen a number of shifts in the retail trade but some things, like survival techniques, never change.

Being a "one-stop shop" for customers, Jank said one of CCC's strengths is that "we carry things other retailers don't usually stock" such as an increasingly wide range of peripherals like multimedia cards, scanners, printers, graphics cards, software as well as notebooks.

"We can turn on a penny," said Jank who claims CCC's survival is largely based on the company's small nature and flexibility.

Jank believes this flexibility has enabled CCC to continue to thrive amongst increasing competition. "The mass merchants moved into Perth about one and a half years ago and there's enormous competition in the area," he said. "The introduction of wholesalers which almost serve a retail function, offering say a single printer, have also emerged. But I won't buy from a supplier who does this."

However, Jank feels it's the growth of tax cheats and dodgy dealers with no identifiable business structure which has really hurt the local retailing trade. Meanwhile the Perth Australian Tax Office appears powerless to intervene. "The ATO is well informed but this has led to no arrests or convictions. They're actionless," he said.

In testing times, CCC has still managed to build a strong customer base largely made up of small-to-medium businesses and although Jank is conscious of non-traditional retail channels emerging such as large department stores, post offices and service stations offering consumables and computer equipment, he says they are "not equipped to handle or support" such sales.

"When you talk to the large department stores or mass merchants you have to wade through automated switch boards or furniture. When we answer the phone we talk computers - there's no receptionist and it's instant service."

Part of CCC's success lies with a constant search for new software, new suppliers and new ways of doing business.

"Direct worries me," said Jank, who feels the retail market isn't ready for download sales. "All the attempts so far at direct-selling models have caused consumers more trouble than they're worth. I think this has drawn customers back to the channel," he said.

Passing remarks? "Strangely enough, information technology is the biggest issue facing retail. Some SMEs have the same requirements as large corporates. Everything has to be done with a single keystroke.

"There's just not the software out there for SMEs that can integrate a company's Web site with its financials package," he said.

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