Dataflow stumbles over auctions

Dataflow stumbles over auctions

Dataflow's online auction initiative, launched in a blaze of glory late last year, has been lying dormant since before Christmas. However, the high-profile software and peripherals distributor has denied Australian resellers are not interested in the service.

Instead, Kathryn Saducas, Dataflow's business development manager, e-commerce, pointed to circumstances over Christmas and the new year which meant it couldn't guarantee availability of stock which is essential when accepting auction bids.

It's a situation executive chairman and founder Jeffrey Tobias said was symptomatic of broader strategy implementations. The auction site is part of the major upheaval taking place as the company settles on and deploys its e-business strategy.

`When you undergo a major change such as embracing e-business, there will invariably be disruptions,' Tobias said. `That can often lead the whole market to say 'what is happening over there?', but we have done this for a reason and that will become clearer as the year moves forward.'

In answering ARN's queries last week as to why the site had no active auctions listed for several weeks, Saducas said a warehouse relocation and trad-itional Christmas/New Year cut-price sales by its customers forced the initiative to stagnate.

There were no technical hitches, it was claimed, and things will be back on track next week with a stocktake just completed and a sale due to start yesterday (January 25).

`The thing about auctions is that you have to be able to guarantee that stock is available [because buyers pay by credit card to secure the purchase],' Saducas said. `Over Christmas and the new year, there were all sorts of sales happening as well as our annual stocktake which meant there was only a finite amount of superseded and obsolete stock available.

Saducas said that, as auctions run for several days and several big customers were ordering stock daily that is suited to the auction environment for runout-style sales of their own, Dataflow was unable to guarantee availability of its `excess inventory'.

Generally speaking, Dataflow maintains that the initiative has been successful. The number of registrations has been `slightly less than anicipated', she said, `but those who have registered are buying more units than expected.'

`Dataflow has achieved sales volumes in line with its forecasts, but at a higher profit than originally planned,' she said.

`Initially, we were only selling about 50 per cent of the product we listed, but that quickly grew to about 80 per cent of the stock that is on the site.'

Initial response has come mostly from small resellers, but it intends to attract the big retailers `with larger volumes and pallet stock later this year', Saducas said.

Meanwhile, Dataflow's recent staff restructuring and relocation disruptions took a new twist last week with the announcement of a new chief operating officer, former Philips long-timer, Malcolm McKinley.

Since the resignation of former managing director Michael Touma late last year and a relocation to new premises, Tobias has had his hands full.

`Both the board and I thought we may have lost some ground last year,' said Tobias. `Perhaps some of our resellers were feeling the same.

`There is no doubt that to continue growing the business, we needed strong management and this appointment [COO McKinley] has certainly bolstered Dataflow in that area.

According to Tobias, creating this new position should free him up to concentrate further on overall strategies.

In a long career with Philips, McKinley worked his way from the design floor in the company's New Zealand operations to the general manager's role of Philips Components in Sydney. Though Dataflow is new to him, he is not totally foreign to distribution, Tobias said.

`He [McKinley] came to us highly recommended and will be working closely with me on a number of new and existing initiatives,' Tobias added.

According to a Dataflow press statement: `McKinley will be responsible for the global management of Dataflow's business. This will encompass all aspects from sales and mar- keting through to distribution and finance. Jeffrey Tobias will remain in the role of managing director/executive chairman.'

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