Editorial: Change is in the air

Although HP has announced it won't make any decision on changing its printer distribution strategy until September (see page 1 of ARN June 14 edition), I am betting you will be able to buy from Dicker Data and Cellnet before the year is out.

The head of its imaging and printing group (IPG), Christoph Schell, has admitted he favours the introduction of a dual model with distributors categorised as logistics or channel development specialists.

Schell has already met with Dicker Data to discuss a possible partnership and said he was impressed with the company's agility. He will sound out Cellnet this week. Appointing both would see IPG aligned with the vendor's personal systems group (PSG), which is something he is keen to do in order to strengthen market perception of HP as a single entity.

But although last week's decision to hold stock locally will help smaller distributors compete with Ingram Micro, the playing field will not be totally levelled. Ingram is a global partner of HP and Schell has indicated that any realignment that does take place later this year will be done in a way that protects the significant investment Guy Freeland and his team have made.

Reading between the lines, this is likely to mean that Ingram will be appointed as the logistics specialist in Australia and HP will give it a couple of extra rebate points for holding huge amounts of stock. HP has already tendered for a logistics partner in New Zealand, although Schell said this would have no bearing on its Australian decision.

In other news, several industry players told me last week that the usual end of financial year rush was less frenetic this year. As the market matures, it seems users are spending more cleverly and even 'use it or lose it' government departments have adopted a more sensible approach since the introduction of centralised purchasing (see page 1).

More even spending can only be a good thing for the channel because although the mad rush in June has always been something to look forward to, the troughs in January and April have sent many resellers to the wall over the years.

Having said that, May seems to have been great for many and early indications are for a strong, if not spectacular, June. Few could have enjoyed last month more than Express Online, which smashed its sales record (see page 4).

While general manager, Alison McQuarrie, insisted it had seen growth pretty much across the board, it is hard not to focus on its Apple sales. The Web-based distributor sold almost three times as much as it did in the corresponding month last year, which was just before it picked up the Apple contract.

Not surprisingly, McQuarrie has set her heart on winning the attentions of another major systems vendor - most likely Toshiba or Lenovo. She has already opened discussions but was understandably reluctant to name names at such an early stage in proceedings. The numbers achieved with Apple during the past 12 months will certainly be a feather in her cap during those talks.

At reseller level, Dubbo-based Axxis Technology has recently been signing up with big brand names left, right and centre (see page 4). It is significant that a dealer with a well established building business in regional Australia has decided it can't beat the brands so it might as well join them.