Although Compaq has forgone a national distributor since separating from TechPac six months ago - Compaq had originally been distributed by Merisel and left shortly after the takeover - Australian Reseller News has learned the vendor and Sydney-based Prion may soon strike a new national distribution deal for the entire Compaq product line.
Although, at press time, no agreement has been reached, Compaq managing director Ian Penman told ARN the negotiations have so far been positive.
When Compaq separated from TechPac in April, Penman told ARN the company preferred to rely on its network of regional distributors: Dicker Data in NSW, Company 29 in Victoria and Tasmania, Hitech in South Australia and Q*Soft in Queensland. In his view, regional distributors were more dedicated to Compaq, and thus more effective than a big, national distributor distributing nearly every product by nearly every vendor. "I don't want to be product number 4,552," he said at the time.
In the here and now, Penman feels the same way. "I still don't want to be product number 4,552. We need to be important to any distributor with whom we partner - whether that's Prion or anyone else," he said.
Moreover, Penman rejects the assertion that Compaq's renewed interest in striking a national distribution deal represents a significant change in Compaq's channels strategy. "We've always wanted to have a first-class national distributor, that's always been a part of our strategy," he said.
Ian Vagg, director of Adelaide-based Hitech, agrees. "Compaq has always been quite straight- forward with us about its interest in a national distributor. That may or may not have been communicated to the outside world, but it's not a surprise to us," he said.
Penman says it's largely a matter of expanded choice for Compaq's partners. "We want to offer all of our resellers as much choice as is possible. We are also aware that there are literally thousands of resellers who we never speak to - and we'd like to change that." If Compaq and Prion reach an agreement, Penman says Compaq will retain its regional distributors.
On the Prion side of the equation, national marketing manager Andrew McLean says he believes his company offers Compaq an interesting alternative to the kind of national distribution it elected to pass on six months ago. "We are a strong national distributor, but we're not this huge monolith like TechPac. I think we can offer them a sort of best of both worlds approach," he said.
"We're able to offer national warehousing and a single point of contact," McLean said. "There's also the point that we are the number-one distributor of branded PCs in Australia." McLean points to Prion's distribution agreements with NEC, HP, Digital and Toshiba as evidence of the distributor's goal of handling "only market-leading hardware products".