Computer Corner’s manager John Bailey admits Taranaki has been relatively protected from the last few years of economic stagnation. But the company hasn’t been able to stem the receding tide of hardware sales.
Like resellers all around the rest of the country, Bailey is always thinking about how Computer Corner does business. Bailey says offering a service as a skilled computer technician is still considered a valuable commodity to his customers and if it’s internet they need, Computer Corner can supply that too.
Bailey says it's the company's expertise that customers still need.
“The people who want Office or e-mail accounts or whatever, they can do it themselves," he says. "If you've got someone who wants an MX record and they’ve got a mail server somewhere and that used to work and now it’s died, they haven’t got the foggiest how to make that work again.”
Bailey says vendor support is simply not effective for client needs. But that is exactly what a locally owned and operated business can offer, quickly and effectively, to add value to what the customers are buying.
Computer Corner was started 12 years ago by three partners who bought an auction lot of second hand computers and RAM. Bailey says the job-lot of RAM happened to be the key to a successful start-up, since it proved to be a very popular retail item which boosted the company’s initial takings significantly.
The company now has nine staff, and services a range of clients, from retail through SMBs, to a few of the larger oil companies that have bases in Taranaki. Bailey says the nature of the typical customer is changing.
“We started off mainly in retail, and we still have a reasonable amount of retail customers but that market has really got quite slim,” he says. "It's small business customers where we’re headed in this day and age because they’re the ones who pay the bills."
Bailey says the sale of laptops has dwindled with the advent of smartphones and other devices.
“Kids and teenagers, most of what they use is Facebook and social networking and they can get it all their phones so they don’t really need that laptop so much as they used to," he says. "So unless they go to university and they’ve got a few things to do for school, that market is just a little bit slimmer now.”
He says resellers need to keep up with the changing market.
“I don’t personally see that the general retail computer shop can exist to the extent that they used to," he says.
"With Google Apps and Microsoft and Amazon cloud, even in the small business market with e-mail it’s all heading that way. With Office 365 for a small business it’s quite convenient for them. Not a whole lot of layout and away they go.
“We sell Office 365 here and we get a cut on it but like all good things we actually manage the account so we make our money when the customer messes up and they can’t fix it. Or they can’t figure out how to get hold of Microsoft to get them to fix it, which in most cases they won’t anyway. At the end of the day all those customers need to be able to access the cloud with something.”
Bailey says the future of Computer Corner in Taranaki is likely to change but exactly how that will happen is not clear just yet. “Although we’re called Computer Corner, we actually run and manage three small ISPs as well. We’re hedging our bets. People need internet so we provide it to them. It’s a wireless ISP as opposed to fixed wire. We’ve got an area from Taranaki down to Levin that we work within.”
He says Taranaki is well protected from the ups and downs of the economy because of the region’s stable dairy industry and the plethora of oil companies that have set up bases there. “It’s like a little Texas down here. Two of them we do alright from. Can’t complain.”
Whatever the future holds for Computer Corner, Bailey says he’s happy to stay in Taranaki. He says jokingly the best thing about it is that it’s not near Auckland. “Where I’m working is about 30 seconds from the sea shore and I can home in 10 minutes and I can go to any number of beaches within half an hour. There’s a mountain here so if you’re a keen climber and you wanna see some snow in the winter you can. But I think mostly it’s bit more relaxed in Taranaki and I hate traffic so it’s a good place to be."