Commander vendors deny direct plans

Commander vendors deny direct plans

Major vendors have denied suggestions they plan to go direct in major accounts formerly serviced by Commander.

Major vendors have denied suggestions they plan to go direct in major accounts formerly serviced by Commander.

The news follows Commander's decision to largely abandon about $600 million in IT hardware procurement in favour of pursuing higher margin, managed services and investing in its traditional voice business. Sources close to the ASX-listed integrator had speculated that leading vendors including HP, Acer and Toshiba would take the opportunity to move some of those accounts direct instead of passing them to other partners.

One source said Acer, which partnered with Commander on significant government contracts, could fulfil those accounts directly. Another source claimed a very large Commander account was in discussions with HP and Toshiba about doing business directly. Commander was HP's largest Australian hardware reseller with major customers including Telstra, Foster's and ANZ Bank. Its Toshiba customers include several education institutions in Victoria.

Acer government and education national sales manager, Mike Cefai, confirmed the PC vendor had fulfilled some ex-Commander customer orders last month but said it had no plans to retain a direct relationship.

"We only got one day's notice from Commander before users were told they couldn't trade with them. It was very sudden. As an interim measure we had to establish credit for those customers until we could get them transitioned to another dealer," he said. "The key for us was to stablilise those key accounts and then transition them to dealers. The bulk of the transition has been done."

Cefai said there were still one or two government agencies and one or two corporate customers buying directly from Acer but insisted these would be handed over to resellers.

"It took us about a month to figure out which dealers those customers were happy to go through. It was like a mini-tender process all over again. Several customers were not happy with the first options and many wanted to follow their ex-Commander rep to whichever dealer they'd gone to," he said.

Commander's exit from hardware procurement allowed Acer to reward loyal resellers, including Leading Solutions and Dataflex, while broadening its partner base with the likes of Southern Cross Computer Systems, Datacom, Ethan Group and Data#3, Cefai said.

Lexmark channel manager, Carmel Mosser, also denied it had taken ex-Commander customers direct.

"We have made a concerted effort to find fulfilment in the channel. If we were at a pinch, and had to fulfil direct, it would be a temporary measure but that hasn't happened in this case," she said.

Mosser said Lexmark had spoken to Commander regularly during the past six months.

"Our concern was to provide a consistent transition with our larger enterprise and government customers. We had great relationships with Commander sales reps and as these people went to other organisations, we followed them," she said. "The strategy was to maintain contracts with those customers and at the same time talk to customers about other providers. We found a lot of existing partners were able to take up business."

An HP spokesperson was unaware of any specific ex-Commander customers it had taken direct. He reiterated that HP would only consider working directly where customers requested it or competitive reasons demanded it.

At the time of the announcement in February, Toshiba information systems division general manager, Mark Whittard, told ARN that it would work closely with Commander to transition any customers coming off its books to another supplier. He had not responded to requests for comment at time of press.

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