As business owners breathe a sigh of relief that the Y2K hurdle has been crossed, they are already focusing on the next major system overhaul that needs to be achieved by June 30, 2000 - implementation of the GST. However, many traditional hardware and software resellers do not seem to have realised how great the potential spoils of the GST could be to them.
There are the obvious opportunities to supply value-added services, be it selling a hardware solution to a small business which has decided to computerise in the face of GST, or the supply of a simple `off-the-shelf' accounting package to facilitate GST accounting, like Pastel SOHO Accounting, MAUS Business Accounts, MYOB or Quicken. But there are other, more significant areas in every Australian business where the value added reseller can offer professional help.
One of the less obvious opportunities is in helping vendors with transitional pricing arrangements and price label production. Remember that items will need to be re-marked with a GST-inclusive price on June 30, or (where this is impractical) have a transitional label showing both the pre-GST and post-GST prices (plus appropriate statements, as per the guidelines issued by the Australian Taxation Office (see www.ato.gov.au). This is the perfect time for vendors with many inventory lines to computerise price label production, and the interaction required between printer hardware, the inventory management system and appropriate label printing software makes VAR involvement ideal.
Barcode scanners are also becoming more popular items with SMEs, since bar-coding all their inventory items not only speeds up daily processing, but can make the required stocktake at the end of June much easier. Every Australian retailer is likely to have inventory on hand on this day which includes a wholesale sales tax (WST) component, and a full stocktake is essential if they expect to claim a WST refund from the ATO on their first GST Business Activity statement. Therefore, services offering help with this stocktake exercise are likely to be well received.
The `dark horse' in terms of the major target market for a GST hardware or software upgrade is the retail sector. If small retailers (who traditionally use cash registers) opt instead for an affordable PC-based solution with appropriate point-of-sale (POS) software, then VARs can expect to be very busy during the next six months. Typically, POS systems cannot be implemented by end users themselves, because of the technical nature of POS hardware. Similarly they are usually not implemented by the traditional public accountant sector, which prefers to stick with the pure accounting and inventory management systems and often finds the demanding `online' support requirements of the retail sector too onerous, when compared to the wholesale and manufacturing sectors.
In the last six months, we have seen a swing by hardware developers to a direct sales model which is tending to leave the hardware reseller out in the cold. On the other hand, software becomes more and more specialised every day. Specifically, the technical expertise required to get a number of complementary software systems to co-exist in harmony on a small business network is becoming complex to the point of being beyond even the IT expert of many small companies. This is where knowledgeable resellers wearing their consultant hat can increase charge-out rates according to their knowledge.
Certainly many companies in sectors other than retail may find their financial systems deficient as far as GST is concerned, and the resultant system upgrades will bring more business to the channel, but it is the retail sector where the serious money will be spent. Therefore it is likely to be those resellers who are adding to their skills base by learning about retail POS systems and, more importantly, retailer GST requirements, who will profit most from the GST opportunity. And remember that the chance to provide these forms of total business solutions only exist while the GST window is open - by August and September, this demand will have been all but filled.
Pastel Accounting Software has announced dates for its second wave of reseller GST training courses.
Details can be obtained by e-mailing email@example.comKevin Lief is managing director of Pastel Software (www.pastel.net.au.) and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org