IBM's on-again, off-again affair with retail has been given a new fling with the help of distributor Synnex through a co-marketing program that is expected to boost Big Blue's presence with mid-size and independent over-the-counter traders.
Managing director of Melbourne-based Synnex, Frank Sheu, said that he saw a great opportunity for IBM in the large number of small and mid-sized urban and rural retail shops that featured heavily in his customer base.
He has received approval and support from IBM for a co-marketing exercise that will attack this prospect.
"We are very strong in the retail market," Sheu said. "We sell our white box components to more than 1500 retail shops all over the country. We are going to be working closely with IBM to help them go back to this retail market through Synnex and there will be a reasonable margin for the dealers."
Synnex will market IBM's R40 ThinkPad range to its vast independent retail customer base. Sheu said that, at the moment, operators in this important supply channel "don't have a great notebook offer" to make money from.
They bought "one-offs from Toshiba and Compaq [HP]" distributors or sub-distributors and "they only make about two to three points", he said.
"IBM has a great range of products to satisfy all sorts of consumers," Sheu said. "We want our loyal customers to take advantage of IBM's top brand awareness and to benefit from some new high profile marketing but also to make some reasonable margin."
Late in 2001, IBM terminated contracts with its 14 major retail partners including Harvey Norman, Dick Smith Electronics, David Jones, Myer, Retravision, Bing Lee and Officeworks. Since then it has preferred to focus its consumer-range marketing efforts on Web- and call centre-based initiatives as well as building a new channel program around distributors and resellers.
Despite one ARN source insisting that IBM had made a conscious effort to reduce its channel marketing expenditure as part of a cost restructure in the PCD unit, Cameron denied this was the case.
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