IBM has extended its Buy-Direct campaign in the US and is likely to do the same in the UK.
Big Blue has introduced a so-called 'buy today, ship today' facility on nine models of notebook. The company is also rumoured to be increasing the number of products it sells directly, planning to enter into direct-buying relationships with 14 of its largest customers, and expanding build-to-order manufacturing capabilities to sell more PCs directly.
IBM launched its Buy-Direct campaign in the UK in November amid criticism from distributors and resellers after denying that it planned to emulate a US direct sales push.
But while a representative of IBM UK again denied that a 'buy today, ship today' facility would be introduced in the UK, some resellers are sceptical.
"If something happens in the US, it normally happens in the UK too," said one reseller who admitted that direct sales initiatives by PC vendors are worrying. "If there are any signs of it happening, we will stop promoting IBM's products immediately."
David Thomas, senior vice president of IBM's personal systems group, said the facility would allow it to cut prices by up to 30 per cent.
"We're beefing up our ability to sell directly to customers. Small businesses and consumers don't want to wait seven days for their computer equipment to be delivered, they want it today. Because we have taken significant costs out of our business expenses, we are passing along the cost savings from making our businesses more efficient," he said.
IBM expects to sell about $600m (£378m) worth of direct PC systems and peripherals this year. Direct sales are expected to account for half the firm's turnover in 2001, up from 14 per cent last year. To fuel its direct strategy, Big Blue is rumoured to be planning to move from a build-to-forecast to a build-to-order model starting in July. It is also reported to be preparing to take 14 of its largest US accounts direct, with build-to-order systems and customised extranets.
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