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Editorial: Fortune favours

Editorial: Fortune favours

They said you'd never make it." It was the theme song to a popular beer commercial many moons ago and was followed by the line "but you finally came through".

The same could be said for Gerry Harvey, who once again stands at the precipice of a bold new concept in retail strategy. What started the supermarket-like approach to the retailing of computers and communications in 1993, when Harvey launched his first superstore, is now going one step further: making the stores even bigger.

Retail's Napoleon has again amassed his troops for the superstore Mark II. At 190,000 square feet and a re-fit cost of $50 million it's an ambitious plan, and one you can't help but feel only the likes of Gerry Harvey could pull off.

The concept sounds impressive. Massive screens, heaps of demonstration stands, in-store concept shops and a 130-strong army of floor staff to keep the masses happy. But the question remains: if Gerry builds it, will they come?

Moving into computers was something of an inspired move for the furniture and white goods king, and judging by recent reports it's no secret Harvey Norman's computers and communications has carried the retailer's fortunes of late.

As a result there's a fair bit riding on this latest venture. If the blueprint works, an HN mega store could be coming to a location near you. If it doesn't, and there's still some very conservative analysts out there that suggest consumer buying isn't about to take off, then it could be a costly Waterloo.

Perhaps the closest to a Gerry Harvey peer in the channel is Ron Harris. Very different in their retail approach, Harris went the way of a Coles Myer buy-out and this week cashes his chips at the door. ARN wishes him well.

Then there's HP's largest reseller, Centari Systems, being acquired by former telephony equipment manufacturer Commander. It's an acquisition that signals a pretty significant evolution in the world of convergence.

It's long been said that telephony resellers have no idea about data, and data resellers have no idea about voice. The marriage of two independently successful companies from two very different disciplines could result in a powerful force in a market that's just starting to come into its own.

From its early phone system days, Commander boasts a blue chip and very loyal customer base. Centari could say the same. Any large systems integrators that have interests in the IP telephony and voice-over-IP fields would be wise to gather some market intelligence on how best to avoid coming head to head with this new entity.

But like so many seemingly perfect marriages it all comes down to execution, something Sun Microsystems will be keeping a very close eye on as it rolls out its new channel strategy.

I had the opportunity to review the new strategy with Sun's partner manager, Paul O'Connor, last week and as far as innovative programs go it looks reasonably comprehensive.

There's been over 12 months of grumbling within Sun's channel and one would be forgiven if you said "we've heard it all before". But O'Connor and his team have come up with a proposal that makes it appear easier and more profitable to deal with Sun. In this current economic environment that can only be a good thing.


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