HN baptises $20 million affinity deal

HN baptises $20 million affinity deal

Retail giant, Harvey Norman has sided with PC vendor IBM to launch an affinity program offering bundled PC, Internet and service packages to members of the Baptist Church.

The program, which could bring in as much as $20 million in revenue over the next five years, will initially be trialled in NSW and the ACT. It is similar in nature to the distribution channel IBM has tapped through primary affinity reseller, Virtual Communities which also recently launched a services operation and which runs programs for the ACTU and the Australian Retirement Fund.

The retail giant has been dabbling in the affinity market for the past 12 months, but the deal with IBM and the church is its most significant offering to date. The company has formed a new division - Harvey Norman Commercial - to broker and manage bulk purchasing programs with the likes of McDonalds, Sara Lee, Tennis Australia and Australian Dairy Farmers.

Harvey Norman will also provide resources and services for the church's fundraising activities.

"We have 129 stores in every state and territory and with those economies of scale we can enter into relationships to really give the local area community support," Harvey Norman general manager for computers and communication John Slack-Smith said.

Harvey Norman will offer Baptist Church members a number of discounted computer packages, incorporating a PC or notebook computer, printer, online installation and training, OEM software bundles and Internet connection with OzEmail. This bundle can be modified to suit the user's needs.

The idea, according to general superintendent of the Baptist Churches of NSW and the ACT, Phil Skinner, is to encourage first time users and bring about closer ties within its church communities through the Internet.

"It is an important part of the market that is emerging for IBM but the most significant factor is merging with our business partners," said IBM personal computer division Australia and New Zealand marketing manager Evan Williams. "We want to grow the opportunities for our business partners and this is the best way to get out into the communities."

Although not generally acknowledged for its service levels, the deal will also see Harvey Norman offering full service agreements on the bundles.

"We are very conscious about our level of service to make sure the members of the church get the most benefit," Slack-Smith said.

"Most Harvey Norman stores are Authorised Service Providers. The one's that are not are in the definite minority, but in those cases we have a service setup with independent organisations. We are very much about being at the front end."

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