According to Kevin Bean, proprietor of Insight/Leading Edge Computers in the affluent southern Sydney suburb of Bangor, the secret to longevity as an independent computer retailer is diversity.
Along with his wife and business partner Jan, Bean has been in the game since 1981 with a company called J&K Technical Services which he says has a constantly evolving business. Three years ago, J&K opened retail premises under the trading name Insight Computers to help cater to increasing demand.
Though a lot of businesses attempt to build up their services revenues as a means to complement retail or "box moving", Bean has found the reverse to be the case.
"We started as a tech-based services business and have moved into retail as a means of growing the business," Bean said.
"As a retailer, it would be extremely difficult for us to survive without the services side of the business but it has also been very beneficial to developing the customers base.
"They really do go hand in hand. We are picking up a lot of retail sales from the services side of the business and vice versa," he added.
About a year ago, Bean identified there was some good sense in aligning his business with Leading Edge Computers, a national co-operative of independent computer stores.
"That was motivated by the fact that we needed some help with our advertising and marketing material," Bean said. "Being in the group has allowed us to have a quality catalogue published every quarter and that is something we could never afford on our own.
"It is also nice to have some sort of corporate structure to fall back on when you need it," he said.
As well as a fully equipped workshop engaging in some assembly and operating as an authorised Canon and Epson service centre, Insight will source just about all sorts of hardware, software or accessories. That is one of the advantages of being an independent and one that is not lost by being in the LEC group, Bean said.
"The big distributors all offer pretty good fulfilment services, so we can get just about anything customers may want without having to keep huge stocks," he said. "Being independent means we are not locked into any one supplier or product and are free to supply exactly what our customers want."
As well as Bean's wife, Insight also employs two young technically trained shop assistants which he says are supporting their studies by working in the industry.
Bean said he is quite happy competing against the local Harvey Norman store and other big retailers because he can easily make up in support what he may lose in price competitiveness against them.
He said most customers understand the role of mass merchants, but what he finds tough is competing against illegitimate traders.
"The guys selling stuff cheaper than I can buy it are obviously doing something untoward. That affects us and diminishes our sales potential," Bean said.