Out-of-town store presents new challenges

Out-of-town store presents new challenges

Elodie Vujcich's Bay of Islands Computers already had an outlet in Kaikohe. A new, out-of-town store at Waipapa near Kerikeri, surrounded by major retailers, was opened a year ago offering a chance for the business to present a “fresh, new clean-cut” image. The former school teacher and her husband John, an IT systems strategist, have traded from their Kaikohe home for some years until opening their Kaikohe shop 12 years ago. Now, Bay of Island Computers serves the east and west coast from Kaikohe and Kawakawa and north to Manganui and occasionally to Kaitaia. The Waipapa outlet focuses on the Bay of Islands and up the coast. The business handles IT sales and support, both in its workshops and on customer premises. The focus is home users and businesses and schools with up to 100 computers. Half of the revenue received is from business customers and half from consumers. The accounts are done in Kaikohe, while the new Waipapa site is more the sales focus. To help manage the expansion, the business has developed a web-based job tracking system. The business is typically hardware and software support, with common projects including wireless hotspots and business consultancy in setting up a businesses’ IT systems from start to finish. The competition is mostly the big box retailers Noel Leeming and Dick Smith, who have stores nearby, but also many one-man-bands. “Everybody has a brother or a friend [doing technology]”, Vujcich explains. Bay of Islands Computers sees its point of difference as depth of expertise, including having five IT technicians with one a former IT manager and another having been an account manager for a large Auckland firm. The Bay of Islands lifestyle helps bring some people to the firm, but younger staff tend to be restless as they want to meet more people. Fortunately, older staff have been drawn to the area. A Northland base presents no issues for delivery, with goods arriving the next day from Auckland. Bay of Islands Computers is served by Ingram Micro, Dove, Arche, and Modern Technologies, which supplies Computer Dynamics computers. Chillisoft supplies anti-virus software and networking gear comes from Snapper networks.

The business says it matches Auckland prices but its service rates are probably cheaper. When the Waipapa store opened, it initially had no broadband as Telecom had run out of slots, which strained its business systems as the company relied on it. Though other businesses were similarly suffering. Setting up a new shop was also challenging in “having to be direct with people, making decisions quickly”. “The hardest bit of my time is keeping a hand on this site,” Vujcich continues. Since the Waipapa store opened business has not taken off as hoped, as the neighbouring stores have not filled in the empty lots as quickly as expected, though the opening of the Warehouse opposite helped bring extra custom. Bay of Islands Computers also boosts trade by regular newspaper advertising. “We have a regular monthly spot in the local paper, we do direct visiting. We are working on improving the website,” she continues. For 2009, Vujcich expects keeping information safe for businesses will be the big need, leading to more service agreements. She is also positive about talk concerning a recession. “If businesses want to survive, they have to keep their IT systems in good order. We have to be positive and make the most of the opportunities we are given. I think tourism will do better than expected as people will stay at home,” she says. Next year Bay of Islands Computers plans to work on its customer base, especially at Waipapa. “No-one is perfect. We make mistakes but we do our best to look after everyone. In a service business like ours, people expect huge amounts. They expect it now. In a service business you work really hard and you are not always thanked for the effort you put in.”

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