Q creates waves on both sides of Tasman

Q creates waves on both sides of Tasman

The fuss might have died down in the Australian channel about Compaq's decision to set up a chain of PC stores but the echoes are still being heard in New Zealand.

Aussie resellers have at least been put out of the misery of uncertainty. Eight Compaq Connect stores are up and running and raking in $1 million a month each, according to Compaq Australia boss Ian Penman (ARN February 2, page 1).

On this side of the Tasman, the most recent utterances Compaq has made on the subject are that the Australian model won't be followed here. Resellers, being realists, remain sceptical, and rightly so.

Two significant developments have occurred since the assurance that there will be no chain of stores in New Zealand. One is Penman's disclosure of how much money they're making the company in Australia - enough, on his figures, to mop up the revenue Harvey Norman turned its back on in protest at the stores.

The other change is at the top of Compaq New Zealand. Robin Paterson, who had been with the company from the day it started here, stepped aside because of ill health. His replacement is Russell Hewitt, the former head of ComputerLand New Zealand. ComputerLand has been as nervous as the rest of the channel about a direct-selling Compaq.

Back in November, when Compaq New Zealand last talked about the issue of going direct or not, the company told Reseller News that it was watching what was going on at subsidiaries elsewhere in the world before making any decisions. The sound of those Compaq Connect tills ringing across the Tasman is undoubtedly distracting, and it will be hard for the New Zealand company to resist setting up PC shops as well.

But what of Hewitt? Surely he retains some family feeling for the channel from which he's just emerged?

Since his appointment at the end of last year, all he's said on the subject is the New Zealand market is "unique" and some kind of hybrid selling model might be appropriate. While there are "opportunities to exploit", he professed loyalty to the channel.

While large resellers say they are comforted by the fact that Compaq's new leader knows the channel, they're as much in the dark as ever about the company's direct-selling intentions. The agony of uncertainty continues.

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