Supposed direct vendor Gateway is set to embrace more of the channel space in 1999. It plans to do it by extending its associates program and retail strategy, as well as with the introduction of the Gateway Country Store concept.
According to Gateway Australia and New Zealand managing director Peter Lees, its aim for 1999 is to be "entirely more accessible".
With reference to the Gateway Associates program (formerly called partners) Lees reported that it is well on track to exceed its target of 100 signed-up associates by the end of the year. He said that Gateway's aim for this year is for the business with associates to represent 15 per cent of the company's sales.
"The associates program is my favourite for a couple of reasons. The first is that it gives us a whole new channel to attack the small-to-medium enterprise. Most of these customers still prefer to buy through resellers. The associate program allows us to slide into that marketplace with people who are traditional resellers of other computers. So the other reason it's my favourite is because it's picking up people who are reselling our competitors' computers and moving them across to Gateway."
Lees left no doubt about the strategic significance of the program. "The associates are going very well, and it's always nice to go right back into the enemy camp and take one right up to them," he added.
Also making Gateway more accessible is the continued rollout of upgraded Telstra retail stores, which will have systems on display as well as Gateway trained staff. Twelve stores already carry Gateway PCs and this is expected to climb to 70 by the end of the year.
"Our experience with showrooms is that when we open one we get a halo effect through the rest of our business. We're finding an uplift in our telephone sales in the postcodes where a Telstra store is showing our PCs."
Gateway country stores
Hinting at what will clearly compete with other PC retail outlets, Lees announced the company will introduce "Gateway country stores", which he described as an extension of the existing showroom model currently used. These will be strategically located Gateway staffed stores with a sales and education function.
According to Lees these, together with a range of phone and Internet-based sale and support programs, will deliver a more personalised service than that offered by the traditional channel.