Realising the role resellers have played in its recent record sales figures, Hitachi has revamped its partner incentive plan for monitor sales.
The vendor launched its Aim High global branding campaign last year in a bid to move the company back into profitability. It appears to have worked - the company recorded a sales increase of more than 180 per cent in Australia on previous forecasts in the six months to September.
"Our positive sales growth is thanks to our resellers," said Hitachi Australia's general manager for sales and marketing, Bernhard Kotarski. "Hitachi has always been in the monitor market, but with a restricted distribution model." The company has therefore set about expanding its distribution model by taking on 20 to 30 larger resellers and systems integrators.
"In unit numbers, we have tripled our sales figures in the first eight months of this year compared to the whole of last year," Kotarski said. "We wouldn't have been able to achieve that without reseller support at large."
Continuing strong sales will rely on a two-prong marketing strategy. The first part incorporates Hitachi's new worldwide branding campaign Inspire the Next, launched locally last week.
The campaign centres on the vendor being the brand of choice amongst the channel and consumers alike. This will also take in the company's consumer electronics and semiconductor businesses, with the company announcing its DVD World concept, which allows compatibility across both 8cm and 12cm DVD media.
"We are moving away from the box-selling idea to become less dependent on product sales, and to start building solutions around our core technologies," Hitachi display technologies product manager Michael Mannasz said.
The second element is the Club Hitachi rewards program, which provides incentives to dealers based on sales.
Resellers can undertake the scheme either as an incentive for sales people, whereby individuals accumulate points, or on a company-wide basis. Each monitor sale accumulates points which can then be redeemed for anything from power tools to holiday vouchers.
Mannasz said the vendor took pains to avoid channel conflict. "We stay with one national distributor, Agate Technology, and local distributors such as Focal Point who specialise, in this case in the graphics market. We try to fill different holes in the market without stepping on the toes of our partners."
And while the majority of sales are still CRT, Mannasz maintains there is lots of growth in the LCD market.
"It is still very much a corporate office product but the LCD market is starting to get legs and expand."
The limiting factor has been reducing prices across the board, Kotarski said.
"The price of TFT screens has reduced greatly, but what no one expected is that CRT monitor prices would reduce at an equal rate," he explained. "Two years ago a 19-inch screen cost around $2500 - now it's around $900. That is really what's limited the growth for TFT."
Mannasz said although the market is competitive, it is also growing and resellers can still do good business by dealing with an established supplier.
"We are always on the hunt to fill niches that we are not currently filling. A few years ago we were very much a niche corporation. Now we are a lot broader, but there are still plenty of opportunities."
Hitachi has also just announced a 17 inch high-resolution flat screen monitor, the CM 625, which will retail for $795.