The Future Of The VAR
By Stephen Lawton
Can it really be November already?
It seems just yesterday I saw twinkling Christmas lights and heard people
talking about their skiing vacations. (Actually, it was yesterday I saw
the Christmas lights; my neighbors never took theirs down. But that's
not the point.)
Soon retail stores will fill (we hope)
with buyers putting down money for the latest gadgets. Any gadget fiend
would love to own the nifty holiday gifts showcased in this month's issue.
These products are available from catalog
companies, computer superstores and MicroTimes' advertisers, the small
and midsize computer retailers and systems integrators. Small retailers
are out there - although if you listen to some of the business
media these days, you might think everything is megastores. Still, if
some small resellers don't change their ways, they might not be out there
As we said last month, the small retailers
are in the sights of big software companies working to eliminate what
some consider gray market software.
Today's retailers are indeed changing;
they have to. To ensure they will be around to enjoy the fruits of the
2000 Christmas shopping season, they need to take two actions:
· Offer more and better personalized service,
as well as consulting and network integration, to compete with the big
boys, such as Best Buy, CompUSA and Sears
· Organize and create a lobbying group
so their views will be heard inside the marble halls of Washington and
the State Capitol in Sacramento
A year ago, I talked about the changing
VAR and the value-added services needed to replace the price-sensitive
commodity markets. When premium-priced vendors including Hewlett-Packard,
Compaq Computer and IBM sell systems for less than $900 from their Web
sites, selling on price alone just won't cut it. And, when you add the
"$400 rebates" tied to three-year Internet service contracts from CompuServe,
AOL, Prodigy and MSN and the "free" PCs, you realize the real margins
are in service, not hardware.
This year, a lot more resellers have added
Web development, network management, integration services, consulting
and other value-adds to their menu of services. That's good. They need
to offer more than just a white box for the price of a name brand.
But resellers must do still more. They
have to create a trade group to represent their position to Congress and
the states, so proposals like UCITA (see Washington Watch for part 2 of
Chris Barnett's report on this devastating act) will be defeated.
Resellers of the world, unite! (Maybe that's
a bit much. How about resellers of the country, unite?) This isn't a revolution,
it's evolution, and your own lobbying group is for your own protection
and your livelihood. The market is changing, and if you plan to survive
another year, you must change with it.