Toshiba targets retail for notebook growth

Not just content to see its sales and market share rising rapidly, dominant notebook vendor Toshiba will next week launch an in-store retail marketing campaign aimed at demonstrating the benefits of mobile computing to an increasingly receptive SOHO market.

Unfortunately for some it is only big players -- David Jones, Harvey Norman, Myer-Grace Bros and Dick Smith Electronics -- which will benefit from the merchandising teams and POS displays which Toshiba will be deploying in prominent retail outlets.

Toshiba claims GFK Research's recent market analysis showed a 28 per cent growth in notebook sales through retail outlets last year while Toshiba itself has recorded an 83 per cent increase in the number of units it moved through mass merchants.

Aaron Blackman, retail marketing manager with Toshiba, said he hasn't seen any notebook vendor specifically target retail with "a very specific go-to-market strategy" despite evidence showing this to be where new buyers are coming from.

Blackman said targeting promotional programs at this emerging market represents an opportunity to both grow the whole notebook market as well as Toshiba's share of it.

"We have not been serious in the retail marketplace and have pretty much ignored it until now because of traditional price and technology differences between laptop and desktop computers," Blackman said.

According to Blackman, those barriers have now been broken down. To help demonstrate the benefits and advantages of notebook computing to retail customers, a new interactive POS tool called Toshiba Freedom has been developed.

Running continuously in a demonstration mode until a consumer takes control, it can be used as a self-service information source for customers or as a tool that can be incorporated into a salesperson's pitch.

"This is an exercise in market expansion rather than changing the focus of our marketing," Blackman said. "It is all about helping them to make an informed decision about what is the right sort of computer for their needs.

"This is the tool which gives them the knowledge that helps them make that decision."

Blackman said that this is the first stage of a new push into retail. Future developments are expected to include a sub-$2000 notebook, loyalty programs and the type of low-entry-price, Internet connection plan packages that have been gaining headlines for the PC vendors of late.

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