Attempting to pool the resources of online computer retailers, a 19-year-old university student and part-time Web developer has created a one-stop shop for consumers to seek out the best prices for their hardware components.
The result of this initiative is a new search engine called Razor Prices (http://www.razorprices.wcq.com.au), which involves retailers listing prices, by product type, on the Web site with links to their homepages should the customer choose.
"Basically I got sick of spending hours on the Net looking for quality hardware at a good price," said David Rugendyke, Razor Prices' webmaster. "That's where the inspiration came from to develop the site."
Having spent nine months in construction, the Web site targets consumers and Rugendyke hopes to also list software products and eventually develop e-commerce capabilities depending on the site's success.
Sponsoring Rugendyke with an Internet domain for the Razor Prices Web site is Nick Cordas, Wholesale Computers Queensland (WCQ) managing director.
"It's going to take him a lot of time to get established, but he's on to a good thing and he should do well," Cordas claims.
Adam Oswald, Internet director of Queensland-based retailer Concorde Computers, believes there is a future for the emergence of "best-buy" sites in Australia but is concerned about the effects on retailers.
"It's definitely bad news for retailers," said Oswald. "Perfect knowledge of the market is bad for the seller."
Out-and-out price wars
Oswald claims it's a whole new world for retailers and that these sites open the door for out-and-out price wars between retailers who are already struggling to survive on thin margins.
However, Concorde Computers does list on the Razor Prices site and although Oswald backs Rugendyke's initiative, in assisting with his business profile, he claims issues such as after-sales service and support have to be the key to purchasing decisions, which best-buy sites don't cater for.
Oswald claims these sites have the potential of being taken over by larger organisations with the resources and the leveraging capabilities to make them commercial ventures.
Alan Green, managing director of Melbourne-based wholesaler Cheapest Blank CDs, another company which lists on the Razor Prices site, claims the site is ideal for his company because he can guarantee the lowest price on his products.
"The benefit for consumers is that they can log in at home and after hours, when they have the time, and when computer shops aren't open. People enjoy checking the prices, and all-in-all the more Web presence a retailer has the better," said Green.
Nevertheless, best-buy sites aren't uncommon, according to Steve Mosskwa, webmaster of Steve's Best Buys.
Mosskwa claims the drive to create his site came from his personal interest in computers, the growth in the presence of online stores and the emergence of large best-buy sites in the US.
"I noticed there was a huge disparity in prices between stores so I wanted to provide consumers with relevant information when buying online," said Mosskwa.
Regarding the possibility of providing an opportunity for rip-off merchants to abuse best-buy sites Mosskwa claims: "I've heard of shocking stories about people being burnt by online stores, but I've heard worse stories about rip-offs by bricks-and-mortar stores. Being a retailer with a bricks-and-mortar site is fine, but an online presence is the way of the future."
In an industry that prides itself on child prodigies and young start-ups, Alex Chen, director of Australian-based company E-Business Consulting, is impressed with Rugendyke's efforts and is looking to develop an association with the young developer.
"The concept itself is what Australia needs and is innovative for a 19-year-old," Chen said.
"If Australia doesn't have sites like this the dollars are just going to go overseas to the US. If we encourage these initiatives we might just make Australia the IT hub of the world," said Chen.