A long-term Toshiba reseller has come up against what is increasingly becoming an epidemic: channel conflict. But this time it's not about the vendor going direct or battling with online resellers.
According to Trevor Austin, managing director of Toowoomba reseller Oakey Computer Systems, it could be any one of a number of suppliers, but he is getting sick of not being able to compete with major retailers when they encroach into market segments they were never intended to be in. His business includes system building, integration and other services, but he wants to be able to supply hardware.
A recent case in point has made Austin see red, and we're not talking Toshiba's corporate red. "A business customer came in touting a price for the latest Toshiba 2710 X DVD notebook at $5499 from a well-known major retailer on the other side of town. "We can't supply that model, and the nearest comparable model, the Satellite Pro 4280 X DVD is not price competitive, and was not available in stock," Austin explained. "I'm just curious to know why we can't buy that model to compete," he added. ARN contacted his preferred distributor and confirmed that the alternate model was not available from Toshiba for at least a month.
Austin believes that the problem of conflicting channels is widespread and damaging to the industry, even claiming "they're bastardising the industry".
Oakey Computer Systems is an authorised Toshiba service centre, so Austin knows his way around the intricacies of Toshiba's reseller models, and he doesn't mind competition. His concern is that the apparent favour shown to mass retailers doesn't allow him and other resellers to compete.
But Aaron Blackman, retail marketing manager for Toshiba Australia's information systems division, claims that the company's focus is more on the business and corporate market, and that its retail strategy is for a small but growing market sector. Acknowledging the concerns of resellers like Oakey, Blackman said: "We try to maintain our corporate and business sales strategy separate from retail . . . but there will always be some conjecture about the retail market."
He explained that Toshiba's retail approach included providing "retail exclusive" products that are supplied to mass retailers Harvey Norman, David Jones, Myer Grace Bros and Dick Smith Electronics. "If a small business person wants the value added by a reseller, they will go to one," Blackman said.
Austin, and other resellers like him who are operating on typically thin hardware margins, is left to consider whether supplying systems is a tenable business model.