Over the counter: Own and service your customer

Over the counter: Own and service your customer

Established five years ago on the University of Western Sydney's Kingswood campus, The Computer Shop services the needs of students, staff and the University itself. "Its main purpose was to centralise computer buying for the University," says assistant manager Vickie Robinson.

Acting as a separate entity but ultimately owned by the University, The Computer Shop is uniquely positioned in the channel.

Located at UWS' new Parramatta campus, The Computer Shop has a captive customer base rolling out, configuring and integrating solutions for the administration and facility needs, including a number of student laboratories, as well as providing a viable retail store for students and staff.

But if you were thinking The Computer Shop had struck pay dirt in setting up as part of the University, think again. "The idea is not to make any money at all," says Robinson.

Although adding its own margin to the products and services it sells to cover staff salaries and operational costs, any profits left over at the end of the year is fed back into the University.

Robinson says revenues come from two streams: "internal sales", selling configured machines into the University's infrastructure, and "external sales", selling systems, components and providing services to staff and students.

With a lot of other retailers surrounding both the Kingswood and Parramatta locations, Robinson says the shop isn't in big competition with other retailers, because it stocks a different range of offerings such as educational and tutoring software.

"There's really no impact on other retailers in the area," says Robinson.

Driving this no-impact policy is the University's president Professor Chris Duke and his desire to make the University an integral part of the greater community rather than "a hindrance", says Robinson.

So it's little wonder then that some local retailers buy old stock from The Computer Shop and use it as an upsell with their other offerings.

Furthermore a strong Mac retailer, Robinson says that a lot of Apple service calls are forwarded onto another local dealer because The Computer Shop doesn't have the resources in-house.

Keeping overheads low by stocking next to no inventory, The Computer Shop has the advantage of having its customers in the palm of its hand.

Robinson claims it's the shop's "reputation and security of purchase" that makes the retailer an attractive option for customers.

"They get a three-year guarantee and there's a help desk available so there's really a lot of after sales support, which they wouldn't get from external retailers," said Robinson.

The Computer Shop's egalitarian approach doesn't end there. Robinson says that it also employs up to two students at any one time. "The shop doesn't receive any benefit, but it's good for the students," she added.

However, with a finite number of students, when it comes to marketing, The Computer Shop has a no-holds-barred strategy. "As the new year starts we take a heavy profile in attracting the next wave of students. If we can get them in the first year we find they will keep coming back."

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