Another major national retailer has stepped up its presence in the computer channel. Mobile electronics retail force Strathfield Group Limited (SGL) last week bought struggling retail chain Software Today.
In a deal that was completed for less than $2 million, SGL purchased the business name - plus the staff, stock and fittings of 19 stores in Queensland, northern NSW and Darwin - from Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu, Software Today's administrator.
Ken Aitken, general manager at SGL, said Software Today represented a great opportunity for SGL to apply its "retail expertise to a market that is going ahead in leaps and bounds".
"We believe there is a natural convergence between entertainment and productivity on a computer system and the sort of products we currently sell in our stores," said Aitken. "We also believe all segments of the retail market they are in can only grow."
Aitken felt Software Today had expanded too quickly. "They were still expanding and opening up new shops while going into administration," he said. "The company was never really allowed to get off the ground and we feel the weight of the Strathfield Group will drive the brand to its full potential."
Hinting that it is just a matter of time before software is sold through its 62 stores across the nation, Aitken said SGL management preferred to keep the Software Today name. "It's a great name. Our long-term goal is to expand the stores nationally and have some crossover of product between what we sell and what they sell," he said.
SGL has been successfully selling office products for 18 months, a segment that represented 7 per cent of its stated $173.5 million turnover last financial year. Further expansion into computer hardware and software has been rapidly acceler-ated by the Software Today purchase, according to Aitken. He said the prime shopping mall locations and experienced staff help give SGL a running start.
"The staff at store level are well educated, they know their business and offer good advice. Assets like that are hard to find so picking up 50 or 60 in one go is a bonus," he said. "It could have taken us a lot of time and money to find that many good, specialist retail sales people."
"The other area of interest to us was the younger market the chain attracts. It represents a chance to expand and consolidate our customer base. Most of our stores are in roadside shopping centres whereas the Software Today stores are in shopping malls and that is of great interest to us."
Having the shadow of liquidation removed has also been a bonus for the staff of Software Today. Kevin Annfield, manager of Software Today's Brookside store, said he was excited at the prospect of having a new employer.
"It's so much better. We can now get on with business."