Providing hardware at the right price and diversifying with a separate networking division has helped Christchurch retailer The Computer Broker survive 15 years in the IT industry.
Managing director Murray McPhail says there are only two other firms he knows of in Christchurch who started at the same time who are still in business.
“The year 1997 was a shocker in Christchurch, we lost 12 resellers during the recession. We were lucky as we hadn’t moved to our retail premise yet.”
The company started in the basement of the McPhail’s house in Westmorland. It achieved annual sales in excess of one million dollars whcih led the company to move to a retail shop in October 1998.
He says it has retained a loyal customer base through quality products and good pricing.
“If we had a product we were not happy wit,h we got out of it fast. We’ve still got customers who come to the shop who remember coming to our basement.”
McPhail says it has diversified into areas such as e-waste recycling.
"We’re putting a lot of resources into that because it’s part and parcel of what we do. You sell it and than dispose of it.”
“We still do a good retail business but also offer after sales support and servicing.”
Over that 15 years he says the biggest change has been price dropping of PCs.
“Companies like Dell came along and people expected to buy a computer for $999 so you’re forced to rationalise how you conduct your business. You’re not getting the same turnover but doing the same amount of work.”
Over the years, the company has changed names a couple of times. The first name change occurred in 2000 when the staff decided The Computer Broker name no longer reflected what they did, The name was changed to Computer Future.
He says there was some confusion with Auckland based company Lexel Systems, formerly Computer Brokers.
“When we buried The Computer Broker and were trading as Computer Future, they approached us about buying The Computer Broker name but we saw a future for it.”
In 2002 The Computer Broker name was revived and ran as a separate company. In 2005 the group moved to one location. The Computer Broker took over the retail and service side and Computer Future specialised in network infrastructure support.
The company relocated to premises in the suburb of Waltham in 2008.
“We survived because we kept reinventing ourselves and worked on a process of constant improvement” says McPhail.
“We had 22 staff in the boom years but have reduced our staff numbers [to 12] and streamlined our processes over the recent years to ensure we are equipped to deal with the current tough trading environment”.
He says it is hard to see what in the industry in the future but believes there is still going to be a large requirement for IT support.