Hewlett-Packard is selling more direct but believes its plans will make resellers more loyal than ever, according to Bernd Bischoff, vice-president of HP Europe. Unveiling HP's year 2000 strategy at a presentation in Geneva last Friday, Bischoff said forward-thinking resellers are happy to lose the responsibility of product fulfilment. "We have to redefine the role of the channel," he said. HP Store, the direct sales site, will be launched in the UK in April, targeting both businesses and consumers. It will replace the vendor's current online presence, HP Shopping Village and HP Commerce Center. Bischoff said resellers will be involved in services provision through the HP Connect programme. HP estimates it will push only four per cent of its PC and peripherals business through direct Web sales by 2002, and a further six per cent through online resellers. "We do not want to be Dell," said Bischoff. A build-to-order scheme, HP Prime, that will see HP sell large and complex orders directly to global customers, will also be introduced next year. Bischoff said HP cannot afford to lose customers that demand to buy direct. The mantra of 'customer choice' may echo Compaq's much criticised channel strategy, but Kevin Kearney, channel marketing director for HP Europe, said HP's implementation of a hybrid channel model should be painless. "We're not trying to skew our business towards direct sales," he said. Bischoff noted that 85 per cent of customers leave the Commerce Center Web site at the point where it asks them to choose a reseller. Instead, online buyers needing services will be directed to HP Connect registered resellers when they ring the HP call centre. HP's direct pricing will be set against "comparable online alternatives", said Bischoff.
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