Homepage: Virtual sheets

Homepage: Virtual sheets

If it bothers you that your favourite vendor might start selling direct, be prepared to be very worried. Nothing is forever in this industry, and with the best intentions to keep doing business the same way, you have to be constantly re- evaluating what you sell, how you sell it, and who you sell it to.

Take selling off the Internet as an example. While it doesn't currently represent a large slice of the goods sold in Australia, it is happening, it's quite profitable for some vendors and it's going to grow steadily for quite a while to come.

If you sell a $100 RRP widget with 30 points of profit, you might price it at $90. If the vendor starts selling it on the Net for $100, how does that affect you? You can take umbrage and stop selling their products. You can complain to your account manager. You can ignore it, and keep selling the widget as though nothing had changed.

Is it the fact that the product is available on the Web that annoys you, or the fact that the vendor is competing with you? Would you be more or less annoyed if the vendor opened a chain of direct shops rather than a Web-based shop? Would you be less annoyed if the orders from the Web-based shop all went through one or more resellers, although the site appeared to be run exclusively by the retailer?

While you might think the future is clear, we've hardly scratched the surface. Let me close with a few unlikely scenarios.

1 Telstra starts selling and installing home and SOHO computers and networks.

2 Instead of buying software outright, we rent it by the month or by the hour of use. Perhaps whichever reseller is currently providing support gets 25 per cent of the monthly fee.

3 Likewise with hardware, a vendor invents a way of charging a rental fee. Users can opt out of the agreement at a day's notice.

4 One of the big direct PC companies offers to put a direct-sales kiosk in your shop.

5 It becomes legal for anyone to audit other people's PCs to look for unauthorised copies of applications.

6 The market for home data storage overtakes commercial use, and steams ahead at 300 per cent growth per year.

7 The paperless toilet arrives but the paperless office doesn't.

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