Canberra's winter of discontent
CANBERRA - The June quarter has always warmed the harshest winter in Canberra, as resellers clean their shelves and public servants deplete their administrative surpluses before the books close in mid June.
But not this year, say resellers.
Resellers reported that Government sales are down by 25 to a calamitous 70 per cent on the same time last year.
In some cases, however, consumer sales compensated for the collapse in public sector buyers.
Meanwhile, resellers in other parts of Australia reported mixed fortunes for the 1996/97 financial year (see page 4).
But as for Canberra, TodayTech salesman Richard Mathe told ARN: "There has been a tightening up all round. The whole market is scared. Home users aren't buying.
"June should be the busiest month of the year. It should be our Christmas."
TodayTech's sales were 30 per cent down on the last year.
The sales collapse was apparent back in December.
"Even Christmas was a bit bleak. It's amazing: the interest rates have been as low as they've ever been but people aren't willing to spend the money," Mathe said.
Like other resellers, Mathe blames the slack quarter on a depressed ACT economy and anxiety over federal Government's outsourcing.
One bright spot has been a revitalised interest in high-end servers rather than workstations.
Brand name notebooks usually move smartly at this time of the year because the senior executive officers have the discretion on the funds.
But ComputerQuest, a Toshiba specialist, saw little of the frenzy of last year.
"It's well down,'' ComputerQuest's office manager, Ron Fordham, told ARN.
"We should be laughing this time of the year. But we're not. We had an excellent month in May. But June was very quiet."
Brand names are favourite
He estimated that ComputerQuest had done 70 per cent of its annual business in the last five months. Fordham said sales were down by a third and he still had Toshibas on his shelves.
Consumer sales remained steady, evening out the bearish quarter. Approved Systems' corporate/retail salesman Peter Holland noted that consumers were favouring brand names, a bright spot generally.
"The big thing is that even though it is coming to the end of the financial year, people aren't buying immediately. They're still waiting. They feel that the Pentium II is untested," Holland said.
He said it was not hard selling IBM Aptivas against clones. "Quality is staging a resurgence," he said.
"We'll sell a clone if that's what they want but the brand names are more popular."
Managing director for The Logical Approach (a medium-sized reseller) John Lavett was among the few to report an improved quarter; however, June was down on May.
"However, we did 50 per cent better in May and June than the same time last year," he said.
Lavett believes the sales this quarter were pent up from the Office of Government Information Technology's freeze on purchases generally.
He said July will be flat and was not optimistic about the months following. One of the largest resellers, OPC, also saw poor sales this year.
"We are running, year to date, at about 30 per cent of our expected Government sales," managing director, John McIntyre, told ARN.
"It's a calamity. It's been flat since the Howard Government was elected. I don't think we're going to see any more feeding frenzies. We're going to see a lot more business-as-usual periods," McIntyre said.
Consumer sales were only 75 per cent of the expected year to date sales, and McIntyre also noted that brand names seemed to rule during this time.
"Four years ago we wouldn't have sold an IBM, now we are one of the top five dealers in the country," he said.