Retail Profile: Agent Orange at your service

Retail Profile: Agent Orange at your service

It's June on a holiday weekend in Orange, one of New South Wales' largest rural support towns, and it is snowing thanks to an unseasonable cold front that is blowing off the Snowy Mountains.

Somewhere out past the boundaries of a city that distinguishes itself by having four defined seasons and which promotes itself as the City of Colour, a local businessman needs a new computer and wants it ready for business on Tuesday.

"No problem," is the attitude of Gabriel Szatmary, proprietor of Colour City Computers (CCC) in Orange.

"That is why retailing in the country is so different to the city - you have to develop long-term confidence within the community and that often involves taking service one extra step," he said.

Branching out from basic software and hardware supply-based revenues is also important today, according to Szatmary. He has extended the business from Authorised Microsoft System Builder status to now include Web publishing, on-site maintenance and repair services, and network installations in his repertoire.

"When we sell three or four computers to a company, they generally want to link them and are now asking how they can get a presence on the Internet.

"I can show them that, so I see the offering of Web publishing services which will put local businesses on the Net as a logical progression of what we are doing as a small assembler and retailer - especially in the country."

But it is service that is the key to winning the confidence in the country's non-urban regions, according to Szatmary.

"Country mentality is a lot different and word-of-mouth is our best selling agent. You have to be available when they need you and that means offering 24-hour support and on-site service," he said.

Szatmary said CCC is run by his wife Julie and himself and employs three part-time technicians. He has been building and selling systems in Orange for three years but only opened the retail store 13 months ago.

As well as system building that yield sales of three or four in a bad week and up to 10 in a good one", Szatmary said he is able to offer a broad range of software and hardware products via the big Sydney distributors.

"There's not much in the way of hardware or software that I can't get delivered overnight from Sydney, so I can source just about anything but don't need to keep a lot of stock. Orange is really just a backwater, but we still get pretty good service."

Szatmary generally goes to Sydney once a week to keep abreast of the latest products and to maintain relationships with his suppliers which he feels is vital in his quest to "stay on the pulse" and sell the best systems to his customers.

The stiffest competition in town comes, strangely enough, from the local Harvey Norman, which Szatmary claims "sells about the same number of systems we do", but to a different market.

"We are in a large rural area and I sell a lot to farmers and small businesses who want it delivered and installed."

Szatmary said there has also been about five or six "fly-by-nighters" who have set up in town only to disappear soon after. This has made people in town wary of "shonky traders" and "cheap city offers", which has meant he has had to pay particular attention to the developing of relationships with customers.

Computer retailers cannot survive in a country town without a good reputation because it is word-of-mouth which will either make you or break you, he added.

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