IBM's Personal Computing Division (PCD) claims it has attracted 180 new resellers and trained 500 reseller staff in IBM technology since the inception of Big Blue's Associate Member Program in March.
The program, initiated by ex-Toshiba sales manager and now IBM PCD channel manager Phil Cameron, aims to coax resellers back to the IBM brand. For several years, the vendor's direct-selling strategies had caused uncertainty and frustration in the PC channel. This was typified by mass merchant Harvey Norman giving the vendor its marching orders in October 2001 and culminated in IBM's decision two months later to abandon its sales into mass merchant retailers altogether.
The program is intended to attract the attention of the many hundreds of small resellers that did not push the required $400,000 of IBM gear per annum to gain "authorised IBM reseller" status. Instead, the criteria to sell IBM computers are set on training and education around IBM product.
Six months since its inception, and Cameron and general manager Nerida Caesar claim the initiative is already paying dividends for the vendor. IBM has "elevated its presence" in the IT channel through a series of training incentives, marketing campaigns and reseller events, Cameron said. "Business partners are starting to see us in a different light," he said. "Many resellers out there wanted to work with IBM - they were looking for a genuine tier-one PC vendor to partner with."
Channel research firm Inform statistics reveal that IBM's decision to pull out of its direct relationships with mass merchants and renew its focus on the rest of the channel has been a success. Since the beginning of the year, Inform has IBM's share of the indirect PC market escalating from 10.5 per cent to just over 15 per cent. The 3 per cent fall in mass merchant sales (which now sits at just above zero), was more than matched by an increase in traditional dealer sales (from 11 to 16 per cent) and independent retailers (less than 1 per cent to 6.5 per cent). Corporate dealers continue to make up most of IBM's indirect sales at 64 per cent, direct marketers have dropped considerably from 22 per cent to 8 per cent, while VARs are steady at 4.5 per cent.
Cameron laughed off rumours that IBM was planning to return to the mass merchant retail channel by December, as speculated by several ARN readers in recent weeks. He said the new channel program is working and there is no reason to reverse the decision.
As a sign of its commitment to the local channel, the vendor now includes the contact details of several of its most loyal reseller partners on its catalogues, which are distributed among the mainstream press. It is also ensuring that advertised products are well-stocked by its distribution partners, Ingram Micro, IT Wholesale, Synnex and Tech Pacific.
Furthermore, Big Blue has set up a PC manufacturing plant in Australia, which has been operational since August. All IBM desktops for sale in Australia and New Zealand will be manufactured by Semina SCI, a contracted system builder.
"It basically means that stock will be more readily available for the channel," Caesar said. "It will be the end of long lead times while PCs are sitting on a boat on their way from China."
IBM's Thinkpads will continue to be imported from China, but rather than being shipped to Australia, the vendor will fly them in to the country. "It is a much less painful process," Caesar said.