Sony is pushing beyond its retailer comfort zone with its Vaio notebooks, extending long-term relationships with three distributors to net sales in uncharted PC channel waters.
Vince Hanning, national sales manager for business channel sales at Sony's Business Solutions division, said the vendor was extending its contracts with Tech Pacific, Multi Media Technologies (MMT) and IT Wholesale.
Those three distributors would begin offering Vaio notebooks, with a view to strengthening overall brand equity and presence in corporate and SMB circles, he said.
'We're extending our arrangements with them to Vaio. We chose TechPac specifically for its broad reach, MMT because it works very closely with VARs and system integrators -- where there is more focus on a solution going to the end-user -- and IT Wholesale for its concentration in the SMB area,' Hanning said.
The notebook market was still growing rapidly. Further distributors could be added in time, with a view to targeting vertical markets, such as education, he added.
Although SMBs did tend to source hardware from retailers such as Harvey Norman or Harris Technology where Vaio was already available, some did not. Also, many might prefer to have the choice of Vaio from the IT channel as well, Hanning said.
'I think there's another lot of SMBs that buy through existing relationships that are not shop-front relationships. Lots of organisations are managed by a consultant who supplies a bit of their communications also,' Hanning said. 'If all goes well, they will have access to Vaio for the first time.'
Marcus Cornish, Vaio product manager at Sony, said the vendor was aiming to ramp up Vaio sales gradually in the IT channel, taking care not to lose ground in retail, which accounted for most of Sony's 5 percent market share of the overall notebook sector.
Accredited partners would be asked to steer clear of the retail space and online as part of the deal. 'If we add an extra one [percentage] point, we'll be happy,' Cornish said.
He said the Vaio range was strongly focused on connectivity and multimedia functionality –- features with rising appeal as technologies and devices converged in a more mobile world.
'We can offer bigger solutions, including digital still cameras, a broad range of optical devices, DVD burners, LCD panels and data projectors,' Cornish said.
Vaio had proved attractive to image-conscious knowledge workers such as advertising executives, sales staff and marketing specialists, Cornish claimed.
Sony was investigating adding further features to the Vaio range –- such as making the notebooks slimmer, lighter and extending battery life further -- in line with current global notebook trends, he said.
Cornish added that Vaio partners would have to keep a tight rein on their inventories. Sony prided itself on maintaining about half the inventory in retailers of other vendors, which it believed helped resellers and retailers alike reduce the risk associated with managing end-of-line, obsolete or other older stocks.
Vaio refreshes came out of the Singapore warehouse about every three or four months, he said.
'We keep our production warehousing especially tight,' Cornish said. 'We don't like retailers to have any more than two weeks' inventory.'
Support would be handled by Sony's fully-equipped support facilities in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Adelaide and Perth.