Notebook vendor Toshiba has admitted that it will make new notebooks available on its website in a bid to help customers save time. But the company claims that the channel will not suffer.
Analysts have warned that, by adopting a hybrid approach, the top-selling laptop vendor in the UK is taking a risk.
Alan Thompson, managing director at Toshiba UK, admitted that the channel won't like the move. But he stressed that, although Toshiba would allow time-pressed buyers to buy notebooks direct, it would be at a premium price.
Toshiba is yet to begin its new strategy. It currently fulfils web shop sales through distributor Ingram Micro, but no date has been set for the new laptops to appear on the company's website.
"We've spoken to [the Rigbys] at SCH and Mike Norris at Computacenter about this. They don't like it but they understand," explained Thompson.
Gary Evans, head of UK business development at Toshiba, said: "The products will be cheaper through the channel and it is, and will remain, our primary route to market."
Options, accessories and services are currently available on the company's website. "The next phase of the web shop will involve refurbished products and will eventually sell new laptops," explained Evans.
Andy Brown, an analyst at IDC, warned that firms toying with direct sales should be careful.
"When vendors have attempted to develop hybrid channels in the past they have failed and any vendors adopting this strategy should display caution," he said.
"I expect this is only a pilot and resellers have been fully briefed. But it surprises me because Toshiba is doing very well through retail and the channel to business."
Brown also pointed to the success of Acer, which is 100 per cent indirect. "The company that is flying in the notebook market at the moment is Acer which sells all of its products through resellers," he explained.
"Acer is empowering its resellers because they know it will not sell any other way."
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