Ingram Micro is looking into the buying habits of its smallest customers with a view to rationalising its reseller database. This could result in a minimum annual spend of $50,000 being introduced in an attempt to ensure that only genuine resellers can access its TechLink website.
Ingram sales director, John Walters, said the broad-based distributor had been planning to carry out a review for about three months following the integration of Ingram and Tech Pacific customer lists.
A market research company had now been hired to conduct the research and started going through a list of 3600 customers this week.
"Our customers will be asked a range of questions on topics like capacity to purchase and distributor preferences," he said. "But it is normal business practice to review the database when two big companies merge and no reseller need fear this.
"It will address the concerns of established resellers - whether they are large or small; metro or regional - and further our aims of allocating resources to those who deserve them.
"We are not stepping away from the SMB market by any means."
Ingram's decision to have a close look at its database will be welcomed by many in the channel as some resellers have complained that it was too easy to gain access to the TechLink website. DPI Solutions' director, Michael Blumentals, said any initiatives designed to remove opportunists and prevent end-users from gaining access to wholesale pricing could only be positive news for the channel.
"It is too easy at the moment for engineers to put on a front that they are part of the [channel] industry in order to gain access to dealer pricing," he said. "That needs to be wound back."
Anybody who isn't placing an order at least once a month should probably be looking to buy from an established reseller anyway.
"I would welcome the introduction of a minimum annual spend as a way of flushing out the ratbags."
General manager of Corporate Express' IT division, Marcus Heron, said some clients had quoted TechLink pricing at him during negotiations, which meant they had full visibility of dealer margins.
"The distributors need channel health and profitability as much as we do," he said. "This is a great step in the right direction."
Ingram's Walters estimated the research would be concluded before Christmas and said the distributor would make decisions on its findings during the first quarter of 2006.
In 2001, former Tech Pacific boss, David Cullen, stirred up a hornet's nest by introducing handling charges for orders worth less than $1000. While it was promoted as a way of getting smaller dealers to consolidate orders and drive greater efficiency, it led to a reseller backlash. Cullen left the distributor just nine months later.
Walters' former boss, Kerry Baillie, took the Tech Pac reins and refocused on SMB business, growing the reseller base by more than 50 per cent in two years. Although Ingram was now looking to cut some dead wood out of its database, Walters was eager to stress that genuine resellers had nothing to fear from the review, regardless of how large their business was.
"Minimum order fees were a disaster and we have no intention of heading back that way," Walters said.
"A more logical idea would be to determine what is a reasonable minimum spend and measure resellers against that annually.
"If somebody is buying less than $1000 of product per month you would have to question whether they are really a reseller.
"We might find there are hundreds that are spending less than that with Ingram because they are taking the majority of their business elsewhere - we have no intention of removing these customers from our database."