While many distributors are setting their sights on fully automated online business-to-business (B2B) reseller services, Adelaide-based Hitech Distribution has looked sideways and hit upon a novel approach to distribution.
Its "cash and carry" warehouse on the outskirts of Adelaide allows Hitech resellers to wander through isles lined with offerings from the whole Hitech range and conduct their business purchases much like they would buying groceries or hardware. Resellers simply load up their trolleys and make their way to the checkout.
Hitech Distribution sales manger John Winter explains that the unorthodox warehouse is designed to allow resellers to get a feel for what the products look like and gives them the opportunity to browse through a range of offerings.
"We realised that we had all these colourful vendor boxes just sitting there waiting to be sold. It seemed to make sense to make a few changes and invite the resellers into the warehouse so they could see the products themselves.
"Normally resellers can only really work from distributor price lists, but there is more to channel operations than specs and prices. This way the resellers can actually see the products and get point-of-sale display ideas," Winter explained.
"The best thing about it is that resellers have the opportunity to actually see our whole range on display, and they often come across different products they might not have considered before."According to Winter, one of the principal effects of the retail move was an immediate diversification of the range of brands resellers were purchasing.
"When we opened the warehouse to the channel there was an increase in sales, but what was really exciting was the sudden increase in the product mix going out through the channel. After seeing [all the different products] on the shelves, resellers were more likely to trial different brands."Although the warehouse has been in operation for about three years Winter confirms that Hitech was not overly enthusiastic about promoting the idea.
Concerned that other distributors would be quick to copy the idea and set up their own retail style warehouses Hitech has endeavoured to keep quiet and get on with business.
Despite his enthusiasm for the project Winter was quick to point out that the retail warehouse is only one element of Hitech's channel program.
"The cash and carry' warehouse is important but it is not the be-all-and-end-all of our channel services. We also run a comprehensive Web site, and provide the channel with training and support. I spend a lot of time visiting regional centres and working with more remote channel players to set up regional projects like IT expos. When these guys are in town they can come in and take a look and maybe pick up some different ideas, the rest of the time we make sure they have access to and other services they require."