Apple online shakes channel to the core

Apple online shakes channel to the core

REACTION in the channel is split over what effect the anticipated launch of an Apple online store in New Zealand will have on their business.

The Apple division of Renaissance, the brand’s de facto face in New Zealand, is currently testing the site through which it will sell Apple products, as well as complementary software and hardware, such as printers and digital still and video cameras, directly to end-users.

Although the division has in the past sold equipment directly to the education and government markets it will be its first contact with consumers without a channel partner.

And according to one Apple reseller, which did not want to be named, channel partners are fuming and see the development as a move by the distributor to compete directly with them for business.

The source refutes claims that Renaissance is launching the site based on a directive from Apple in the US, saying that Apple does not have a stake in the local operation, which is a fully-owned Renaissance division, and could not force the distributor’s hand.

“Renaissance is very selective as to when to act like an Apple subsidiary or a distributor,” says the reseller, adding this sentiment runs through the Apple channel.

But, Murray Wood of MagnumMac is not as vehement about the store, saying that while he does not welcome it with “open arms” he understands it is based on a directive from the US.

Nevertheless, Wood believes most customers will not forsake personal contact and being able to touch and feel products when investing in high-end technology.

Mike Milne director of ATL Systems says the store will not threaten the company’s business as an integrator. “Our personal relationships with customers, and our deep understanding of their infrastructure allow us to deliver solutions that online stores can’t match,” he says.

“We are a big supporter of Apple — it is trying to meet the demands of customers. That is a worthy goal.”

Milne says Apple online stores overseas have grown the overall market, which will benefit both Apple and its New Zealand resellers.

“People may go to the site to see what is on offer, but then come to us to provide set-up, support and integration.”

Paul Johnston, managing director of Renaissance and head of the Apple division, says experiences in the US and Australia have shown this to be the case.

He does, however, concede that there may be some resentment in the channel over the online store, but states that Renaissance manages Apple in New Zealand as an Apple subsidiary would, and was compelled to follow directives from Apple in the US.

“It has to be clear that it is the Apple Division and not Renaissance itself that will operate the store. Renaissance as a distributor remains totally channel focused.”

Johnston says the store will be launched in phases, and is expected to go online in a matter of weeks with limited functionality.

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