Big Bear, a locally owned and operated Queenstown computer reseller, has handed over the keys of its Beach Street location to long-term partner, Telecom.
The hardware, software and consumables retailer was the Telecom dealership for the Queenstown area from 2001 until the end of January, when Big Bear’s owner , Mark Jessop sold the telephone side of the business for an undisclosed amount.
The ground-level shop closed on February 4 with plans to reopen mid-February as a refurbished Telecom retail store while Jessop has moved the computer-side of Big Bear to a smaller showroom upstairs, with tentative plans to sell that as well.
While Big Bear’s immediate future remains uncertain, the deal accomplishes Telecom’s goal to ensure that all points of contact with customers are streamlined and consistent. Telecom has reviewed its retail and dealer stores nationwide and conducted a 12-month customer research project to that end.
“Our aim is to ensure customer queries ranging across Telecom’s products and services can be dealt with consistently across all our channels,” says Stephanie Fergusson, a Telecom spokeperson. “We recognise that Big Bear has played a significant role in the Queenstown community and has made a valuable contribution to Telecom both in terms of sales and service in the past.”
Fergusson says that Big Bear is the only store that Telecom has acquired as a Telecom retail store through this process.
New Zealand in total has around 115 Telecom dealerships, retail stores and “concept stores” - a recently-launched outlet where customers can trial products - according to the store locator on the company’s website.
Jessop says Telecom approached him about a possible sale after relocating Big Bear last September, from the edge of the downtown business district to the current, more central site as part of Jessop’s plan to get more “retail centric for computer and Telecom products”.
The companies entered negotiations later in the Spring.
“I am very happy with the deal that I got with Telecom,” Jessop says. “I’m sad and disappointed to be getting out [of the channel], but that’s business. There aren’t many independent computer retailers these days and that’s just life.”
In a 2007 Reseller News’ profile, Jessop described the problem facing many small resellers — the arrival of Dick Smith and Noel Leeming to the area — as “a kick in the guts” to local operators like him. He positioned Big Bear as a “one-stop-shop for advice, knowledge and experience” in telephony and IT to differentiate Big Bear from the chain-store rivals.
(Jessop was the IT manager for Mt Cook Airlines in the 1980s and later helped devise the online reservation and booking system for Freedom Air before it merged with Air New Zealand. He later owned a teleco store that he merged with Big Bear).
Jessop says Big Bear still has ample computer stock to sell off as he continues to do business from his new location. But he is leaning toward getting out of the computer business altogether and “sooner rather than later”.
“If someone walked into the store with a cheque right now, I would sell it to them,” he says.
Jessop also owns two restaurants in the area.
Jessop says Big Bear employed seven people, which Telecom has retained, according to Fergusson.