So Computer Choice magazine has identified that large retailers are often not up to scratch when it comes to quality of service and value for money in relation to PC sales. No great surprises there, but neither would there be a great deal of concern among the mass merchants.
The value proposition of a mass merchant retailer is in having a broad selection and convenient location, which will obviously come at the expense of product knowledge and competitive pricing.
It's the business model they have adopted, and in most cases they minimise the disadvantages for the customer quite well. Harvey Norman, which performed pretty well under this scrutiny, except in terms of value for money, wouldn't be so dominant in IT retailing if it wasn't doing something right.
The success of the independent dealer and small corporate reseller is in being able to get very close to the customer and service their individual needs more effectively. Meanwhile, manageable cost structures and stiff competition keep their prices fair.
Therefore, customers who prize that intimacy, knowledge and value - as most small and medium businesses do - will continue to deal with independents. On the other hand, customers who want to walk in and walk out with their choice of PC will shop at a Harvey Norman superstore, a Dick Smith Powerhouse or a similar mass merchant.
Large chains have huge overheads to cover and a higher staff turnover, which affects both price and quality of service. However, with the market maturing, most consumers are fairly aware of what they want to buy and how much they want to pay for it.
Buying a PC is not as much of a mystery for most punters as it once was. While nobody appreciates shabby service and price is always a consideration, convenience and choice are increasingly becoming priorities for PC consumers.
There will always be enough room for both the big guys and the little guys of the channel to live in harmony. Nevertheless, I'm sure the vast majority of independent retailers who make up our readership will quietly be very pleased by the results of the Australian Consumer Association research. It confirms something they've been claiming for a long time.
And since we're talking about research, if you want a chance to win a couple of bottles of good plonk, turn to pages 28 and 29 of this issue and complete the ARN reader survey.
The survey is our research to find out how we can continue to service the constantly evolving IT distribution channel. We've been thrilled with the response so far and there are some definite patterns emerging in regards to what our readers want to see more or less of.
One early emerging pattern is the passion that the channel has for ARN. The channel is either full of sycophants or you really do love us.
Most respondents say they read every weekly issue and spend more than an hour doing so because it is a highly valuable and relevant resource to them. That motivates us greatly to keep up the high standards and further emphasises why you should fire in your two cents worth as well. If the publication is important to you, here is your chance to help us make it even more relevant.
Perhaps more importantly, there's a few good reds on offer as well. To be in the running for a nice tipple you only need spend five minutes filling in the survey.
We look forward to your feedback.
Gerard Norsa is editor of ARN. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.