The man charged with running the controversial Compaq Connect retail stores program, Compaq consumer director Rob Balmer, last week confirmed that the vendor is nearly set to extend the stores to Sydney, this time with a "channel partner-owned" site due to open this month.
While Balmer was unwilling to reveal the identity of the first Compaq Connect business partner who he described as an existing channel partner, he was only too happy to affirm his enthusiasm for the rollout of the program.
The first non-Compaq owned site, which he conceded will open "as close as possible to the end of the first quarter", will fulfil managing director Ian Penman's promise that the business model would be extended to the channel.
"And we're looking to hear from other potential operators," Balmer said, describing the most suitable candidates as "existing resellers whose business can be adapted to suit the Compaq Connect model". He reiterated Penman's claim that they wanted to prove the model before involving its partners, and added "it has not had any effect on our existing retailers, if anything improved things for them".
According to Balmer, 85 per cent of the Compaq Connect customers are from the small-to-medium business segment, which is the sweet spot it was designed to target. The configure to order component of the model means that, as well as being a sales channel for what he believes has been an under-represented market segment, it is a part of the fulfilment process "for the ones and twos orders. It was one of the key points in the design of the stores, and what was needed [to compete with] the clone business."
And the stores had an unlikely supporter in Ron Harris, managing director of the Coles Myer owned IT retailer Harris Technology (HT). While HT is in the process of rolling out more of its kiosk locations at selected Coles Myer outlets, Harris suggested that the capacity of a Compaq Connect store to fulfil the occasional order would enhance HT's own Web-based retail model. "We expect to be using the configuration builder software being used in the Compaq Connect program," he said.
Balmer insists that the extension of the program is also good news for other parts of the channel, with the Compaq Connect stores supplying many other non-Compaq products sourced through distributors as well as other direct supplying vendors.