I was recently asked by the organisers of the TCA Conference if I would like to give a ten minute ?pitch and bitch? presentation about the life of a small indie. Feeling very passionate about the retail business, I gave it a shot.

The sharp end of the industry

The main focus was the lack of support for domestic customers and the many hundreds of businesses that look after them. 50 per cent of computers sold this year will go into the domestic market. That is a huge number and next year it will be bigger.

The smaller independent does not get point of sale, price protection, sale or return or promotional stock. It does, however, give fantastic service and support. Customers call us instead of a vendor help line – we handle most warranty problems and don’t have call centres with long wait times.

We pay more money for our stock than the larger players, whilst offering better service, fewer returns and better customer satisfaction. Thank goodness the big guys can’t do that, or there would be nothing left for us.

Five years ago we were 70 per cent sales and 30 per cent service. Now it is the other way round and, to be honest, we make a better margin fixing hardware than selling it.

It is not just us small indies that are feeling the pinch on hardware sales. Anyone can now type a quote into Google and find a better price – that is the way of the web. Are the vendors and distributors happy with just dealing with the supermarkets? I hope they don’t end up like the farmers.

My advice is to look after the little guy – we are where the growth is going to come from. The domestic market is big and getting bigger, and together we, the indies, will have a bigger voice. As the market becomes more consumer-focused it is service over price that will win.

We recently joined the CompTIA reseller committee to help promote smaller retailers, who are seen in the industry as cowboys and pirates. 90 per cent of us, I am sure, are not – lets try and make it 100 per cent and kick the bad guys out of the market. CompTIA offers a recognised standard that we can join up to – I hope we all try and reach it.

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