Staying in the ring

Staying in the ring

If there's one thing I've learnt during my time at ARN, it's that people in the channel are more than willing to reinvent themselves.

This week, Optima announced its acquisition of camera and photo imaging retail chain, Digital City. The purchase is part of plans to get a leg up in the retail space and lessen the company's reliance on its traditional PC assembly business. Although Digital City's owners had been struggling to keep the retailer out of financial straits, and put the company into administration in July, Optima chairman and managing director, Cornel Ung, claims he has the advantage of wider product procurement and services know-how to make it a success.

Optima's latest move is just more proof of local assemblers being forced to find new sales channels to make ends meet. But instead of cutting his losses and getting out, Ung's retail aspirations show he's determined to keep fighting.

He's not alone. Already, we've seen some of the stalwarts of the local PC industry trying new things to supplement their assembly business. ASI Solutions is another that springs to mind - its decision to push its value as a services partner over and above its hardware business shows its willingness to move with the times. The company is now looking at building up its datacentre and remote delivery capabilities to shore up its medium enterprise position.

Queensland-based Coretech has also abandoned its box-building heritage in favour of partnerships with Lenovo and IBM. Sales director, David Wain, told me late last year that its inability to compete effectively with the brands in the Queensland education market had led to its decision to jump the fence and become a reseller. And it looks like it's worked, with the company recently beating multinationals to a lucrative, reseller-led laptop for teachers contract with the Queensland Department of Education and Training.

Only time will tell if Optima's retail market push and broader 3C Shop initiative succeeds, but the attempt to make a new name for itself shows it wants to stay in the ring, whatever the outfit. In other news, it looks like it's make or break time for ASX-listed integrator, Commander. The company was suspended from trading on October 1 after failing to file its full-year accounts.

The news caps off months of financial drama, which one analyst claims is the ongoing result of its inability to pull together its traditional PBX systems business with its integrated telco and IT vision.

Now that the banks are circling Commander like vultures, the company is going to have to do some serious soul searching. And, by the look of it, sell off some of its assets.

With a share price less than half of what it was 12 months ago, something obviously had to be done. You also have to wonder how long Adrian Coote can keep, or wants, the top job.

Whether Commander can step into the next round with its head held high and win back the trust of its investors and its customers is a big question mark. Perhaps there won't even be a Commander as we know it left to fight another day.

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