Telstra steps up in the channel

Telstra is chasing an ever increasing cut of the IT services pie with the opening of its first purpose-built Telstra Business Shop in Tempe, Sydney this week, the first of 10 to be rolled out in the next 12 months.

The telco-cum-networker will use the stores as a geographic hub to access the high-value small and medium business sector, not only in a retail sense but as a one-stop-shop for solutions, consulting and services.

As well as showcasing its traditional range of fixed and mobile phones, Telstra is expanding into PCs and office peripherals currently stocking Compaq, Palm, Hewlett-Packard and Handspring products. It also has a strategic arrangement with Gateway to provide custom built PCs.

"The store will be a base for businesses to come and take a hands-on approach to purchasing business solutions, as well as a base for us to go out to them," Gary Delport, national general manager of the Telstra shop network said. However, Tempe store manager, Steven Chareas said they don't intend to get into local area networking.

Telstra claims an edge on existing retail outlets and resellers through its ability to offer everything from hardware to telecommunications networks, cabling, data management, email and Internet services.

"Obviously we can't be all things to all people in the wired, wireless, networking space," Sean Casey, national business development manager for Telstra said. "There is the likelihood we will partner with businesses in the future for areas that go outside of our expertise."

However, IT resellers say the proof will be in the pudding as to whether Telstra will make the grade on the services front. Expertise has certainly been an area where other big retailers, such as Harvey Norman and Dick Smith have failed.

"Hot on the heels of Compaq direct stores crashing and burning I'm scratching my head as to whether Telstra can do a better job," Brian Flack, sales consultant for corporate integrator Leading Solutions said.

"It's too early to say whether or not it's encroaching on our patch of grass," Andrew Oo, business development manager for solutions firm, said. "It depends how deep Telstra's pockets are and how committed they are to this."