The company began life as a desktop publishing business and became known as an Apple specialist, being owned by local businessman Bryce Ralph for 20 years. Last May Ralph sold the company to Auckland businessman Satay Pillay, of Cohesive Technology Integration, who appointed Rory O’Toole as business manager in October.
O’Toole, formerly from Timaru, has worked in Nelson retail for 20 years, including a year in insurance and commercial leasing. He says Advanced Communications has undergone a major shake-up.
“I have noted a huge shift in the way things have been sold in the past 20 years. There is a huge shift in targeting customers. I have already had an impact on joining the company.”
O’Toole says this includes him changing the company’s administrative strategy, retail strategy, re-inventing the company in the marketplace and improving stock control and service.
“The feedback from customers is excellent. They are looking to see what we are going to do in the future,” he says.
The company website is to be upgraded and new brochures produced.
There are also plans to expand the current outlet in Nelson and there may even be a second store in Blenheim or nearby Richmond, a booming retailing area.
“A lot of people know the name Apple, but don’t know what it stands for,” O’Toole says.
“We are going to get reps out on the road and into business premises to show people what Apple can do, especially the untapped market in Blenheim. Tell them it’s a whole package with after sales service.”
The new marketing strategy will see the recruitment of a new salesman. There will be cold calling on businesses, as well as adverts in the local paper and other print media.
“We have to educate business that there is an alternative to standard. We have not advertised for a long time. We will also start on some direct marketing, especially in the education sector,” he says.
Advanced Communications currently employs seven people – three in the store, including office manager Sarah Richards, two sales reps out on the road, one technician, plus O’Toole. It plans to increase staffing as business allows.
O’Toole says it is easy to attract staff in Nelson as the area is a place where people want to live.
At present, the company largely serves the consumer market, plus graphic designers, especially those making local tourism brochures. The launch of iPods has boosted trade in recent years, with education another mainstay.
Office manager Sarah Richards says local schools, even as far away as Marlborough or Golden Bay, form a large part of Advanced’s customer base. This is helped by a scheme called Laptops for Teachers, where the teachers have a choice of three subsidised laptops.
Local polytechnics and schools also have suites of Apple computers, a situation helped by the latest Macs that can run Microsoft Windows.
“A lot of people are sick of mainstream PCs and want something more reliable. More recently we have been getting customers who have bought an iPod and want to switch to a Mac as opposed to a PC,” continues Richards, who has been with the company 10 years.
Other customers hear by word of mouth of the supposed benefits of Macs and then come over, says Richards.
“We do a bit of everything. We provide a one-stop-shop. We have a technician, but the new operating system is so reliable it’s hard to keep him busy,” she says.
In addition, Advanced Communications also offers onsite tutorials.
Naturally, laptops are a big seller, and all the computers have wireless capability built into them. Xtra remains the main local provider, but Nelson has its own ISP Tasman Solutions, which the retailer also promotes.
The iPods were a big Christmas seller, particularly the new iPod Nanos for sending and receiving photos, videos and music. The iPod Touches also have email and internet capability.
Consequently, with expanding product ranges, coupled with the improved retail profile, O’Toole expects “a big increase in sales” this year.