Compaq PCs will be available "quasi" direct as part of a new "direct fulfilment" plan, which will see a single large reseller receiving leads from Compaq and existing resellers.
Compaq MD Ian Penman said the deal with the lucky Australian reseller is almost done.
Existing resellers are also able to pass unwanted leads back to the fulfilment centre for next-day delivery, for which they will receive a "spotter's fee". But most resellers who spoke to ARN couldn't see many situations where they would willingly give away leads. They also indicated that they can see a day when Compaq will keep its own leads for fear that resellers would include non-Compaq items in solution sales.
A similar model is being put in place in the UK, where Compaq will sell a limited range of desktop machines directly to the "micro-business" market of companies with ten or fewer employees.
But Penman told ARN he could see no reason to limit the range of PCs available in Australia under the plan.
Compaq's new Glasgow call centre expects about 20 per cent of all purchases through it to be direct. Customers will have a choice of five or six different desktop machines that come pre-configured with small business software.
Worldwide, Compaq is experimenting with various new services and sales methods to answer the growing popularity of direct-sales companies. Strategies include build-to-order; assembly by key resellers; owner support/ upgrade clubs; and call centres. Compaq is also reportedly interested in buying Gateway 2000 and/or Micron Technology to get a boost into direct sales.
Penman said the direct model is growing faster than the rest of the market, and represents a sizable proportion of people who felt more comfortable buying this way, especially with pre- configured bundles. He added that anything Compaq is doing in this line has been done with considered input from resellers. "They're the reason we're as successful as we are, so we wouldn't be doing something they aren't happy with."
He emphasised that Compaq sees the direct fulfilment adding to Compaq's sales, not taking from existing resellers.
Compaq is already selling direct in the US, and plans to move at least 15 per cent of its products this way by 2000. The news has angered US resellers and distributors alike.