Epson has forced a shake-up of the point of sale (POS) channel by appointing two extra distributors, Melbourne-based Unique Micro Design (UMD) and Brisbane-based Pos Pos, to join Sydney-based DH Technologies.
UMD and Pos Pos were previously sub-distributors, working through DH Technology, until Epson decided to flatten its channel and upgrade the pair.
Business systems manager for Epson Australia's business systems division, Jason Whiley, said Epson wanted to increase its market penetration of POS products.
The new arrangement would help it serve a wider range of dealers and systems integrators.
Whiley cited Pos Pos's exposure in smaller states and Unique's technical expertise.
DH Technology had done a marvellous job over the past 12 years but Epson felt a need to be closer to resellers and dealers.
"It's more the vendor wanting to take a more active role with channel partners," Whiley said.
Initially, DH Technology effectively performed the role of Epson Australia, he said. Then, 5-6 years ago, Epson became more pro-active. This latest move was also part of that trend. Today, it has 12 staff, half of whom work on POS.
Whiley said POS systems were still very solutions-orientated rather than a consumer product, and needed channel support, but retailers were becoming more techno-savvy.
Epson estimated Australia has about 380,000 POS systems with around half still electronic.
About 10-15 per cent of retailers change or upgrade their systems each year and Epson claims half of this market.
Managing director of DH Technologies, Vaughan Blackwood, said the changes were known about for a long time, and had helped the company fast-track changes that were already underway.
DH Technologies employs 40 staff, including 12 dedicated salespeople, has offices in Melbourne, Adelaide and Sydney, and serves almost 1000 resellers across Australia.
A revenue of $30 million is budgeted for 2004.
Blackwood said his company's role with Epson was unusual. It initially operated as a "pseudo-Epson", dealing directly with the factories in Japan, until Epson properly set up its own operations some years ago.
The latest move will still see DH Technology as Epson's largest distributor but its vendor relationship will now be more traditional.
Preparing for the change, DH Technology secured other vendors to distribute, including barcode maker and label printer, Zebra Technologies, and Taiwanese POS terminals manufacturer, Firich.
It also tookover one of its former six sub-distributors, Bluebeau of Adelaide.
Blackwood said the Epson move would have minimal impact on his business as it was good in accelerating its continuing adjustments, removing its dependence on sub-distributors and helping it develop stronger partnerships with dealers.
"The bad is some of our good friends and customers are now competition," he said.
The Epson and similar moves at Symbol meant the POS market was undergoing a significant shake-up as a result, Blackwood said.
"The market is strong and growing, becoming more commoditised," he said. "But it still requires a degree of support at the dealer and customer level, integrating peripherals and hardware support."
While Epson claims two more distributors will bring extra choice and competition to the market, DH Technologies doubt there will be much impact on prices.
The company said it would be largely business as usual for resellers. It still expected further sales growth after a record 2003.
"Epson are a great company," Blackwood said. "We still have a great relationship."
Pos Pos national sales manager, Dominic Corkeron, said the move strengthened his firm as a one-stop shop for wholesalers and integrators.
Resellers will now have more choice, which will reduce prices.
More Epson stock will be kept around the country, giving resellers faster response times.
The eight-year-old business had expanded rapidly every year, now serving 500 resellers, which Epson had recognised.
Its distributorship appointment would have a phenomenal effect on his business, fuelling its further expansion, with a related low-on effect for Epson, Corkeron said.
UMD general manager, Geoffrey Ramadan, said his business founded POS in 1983; designing Australia's first computerised cashier, which led it to supply barcodes and printers.
Today, it saw itself as an engineering solutions business, designing, manufacturing and integrating technology for the supply chain.
UMD employs 26 staff at two sites in Melbourne. Another office is now opening in Sydney. Its key vendors also include Citizen, Samsung, Intermec, PSC, Denso and Senor.
"We are a value-added distributor," Ramadan said. "Our key strength is good service and technical support. We can design and manufacture, using other products."