The computer retailing arm of the Leading Edge group is reinforcing the merit of numbers, and its member list has recently gone past the 100 mark.
Leading Edge Computers (LEC) general manager Ross Whitelaw confirmed that the number of retail members had reached 104 recently, while acknowledging that there has been a big turnover.
`It is fair to say that our sort of operation does not suit everyone, and we recognise that some of our previous members were not suited to it, but we are now attracting committed businesses that can take advantage of the sorts of benefits we offer,' Whitelaw said.
In terms of a cooperative, a lot of computer retailers focus on the buying component, but the key is the marketing and promotion, Whitelaw said. He said that many of the new members have never previously had access to the type or scale of marketing activity, such as widespread distribution of catalogues - four per year - and mainstream advertising, including regional television, at the most affordable rates. `As an addition to the catalogues, we are including a copy of a corresponding broadcast quality television advertisement for our members' use as they see fit,' Whitelaw added.
LEC is being strategic about its choice of suppliers, recently dropping Compaq after its well-publicised foray into the retail space.
`We have great difficulty dealing with any supplier that goes into competition with its [channel] customers,' Whitelaw warned. Meanwhile, LEC has signed a new supplier for its own branded systems, though Whitelaw was keen to stress that he had nothing but admiration for the previous assembler of LEC systems.
Among other developments in the retail group, Whitelaw revealed that it has established a central billing system for the use of members who wish to use it with designated suppliers. `For many of our members, this means better trading terms,' he explained. There is a functional intranet, and the group is well on the way to a full e-commerce environment, which gives these smaller family-run retailers the advantages of the mass merchants.
Whitelaw acknowledges that the member targets and action steps have taken longer than he would have liked, but the signposts are becoming evident.