Smaller resellers cautious about road ahead

Smaller resellers cautious about road ahead

How some IT businesses are staying buoyant through tough times

Janko Computers' Neville Jans echoes the thoughts of many small resellers across the country when he predicts that this year will be "erratic", with a random mix of busy and quiet periods rather than the steady stream of business the New Plymouth reseller would prefer to have.

Jans, who started Janko Computers in 1990, has seen many changes in the business since then. The latest change, he points out, relates to the uptake of mobile devices.

"Mobility is what is having the biggest impact," he says. Jans says he has been witnessing a shift to mobile devices away from desktops. Customers who would normally buy a desktop are now more likely to buy a high-end laptop, while customers who would normally choose a bottom-of-the-range laptop now prefer to buy a tablet device.

Jans says the servicing side of the business "has been pretty steady and picked up a little compared to last year, which was a bit of a challenge". For the rest of 2013, he hopes to "boost the services side" and says "there is definitely opportunity there". "Let's see how far the change goes," adds Jans, cautious about the future.

Caution is also a keyword at neighbouring Modster PC, another New Plymouth-based reseller. Co-owner Steve Mayes says the company is selling “a lot of laptops and a lot of tablets and touchscreen products”. The company has also entered the Apple repair and servicing business and Mayes says he is selling “a lot of ex-lease to small businesses” who can’t afford to spend too much.

“We are seeing laptops replacing desktop,” says Mayes, adding that he still does not see tablets replacing laptops so much. “We are selling a lot of Sony Vaio and Toshiba laptops,” he says, pointing out that customers who would normally choose a desktop are now opting for a higher-end laptop. The gaming desktop, he says, is also being replaced by powerful laptops, meaning mobility is playing a strong part in redefining business for Modster PC. “Custom-build desktop was a big part of our business,” says Mayes.

“We’re seeing a lot of repairs, people keeping what they have in order to keep their savings up,” adds the reseller. “We’re doing an awful lot of repairs on old computers.”

Mayes says “things have improved a bit but late 2012 was very slow”. “We are going to be very careful going into winter now,” he adds.

Moving further south, to Queenstown, business is moving at the same slow but steady pace. Michael McNeil purchased Digital 7 four years ago, at the height of the recession. In hindsight, he’s the first one to admit it was probably not the best time to buy a business. “It was very tough but it is getting better now,” he says.

“We are seeing business picking up this year, across the board,” he adds. “We see people updating their systems and more money coming in. Hopefully this will continue throughout the year.”

McNeil says people are “pretty positive” and points out that Queenstown is in a different situation compared to the rest of the country. The reseller says it is fortunate to work closely with the tourism sector “which is continuously growing”. He says he has his reservations about the rest of the year but is happy to see an influx of business coming in, as more and more people decide that it is finally time to upgrade their computing infrastructure.

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