Hewlett-Packard is to sell products online direct to European consumers to win back business from rivals Dell, Gateway and IBM.
Already operating in the US, HP Shopping Village will initially sell 71 products from most of HP's consumer product lines, including three different home PCs, inkjet and laser printers, all in one products, as well as ink cartridges and paper. Other products will be added later.
HP will pilot the scheme in the UK on 3 June to test its appeal before it expands across mainland Europe. A similar pilot will be launched in Sweden at the end of June.
The company says however that the move is not an "aggressive" step into direct online selling but is more of a test.
"We are just dipping our toes in the water," explained Trudie Mitchell, ebusiness manager at HP UK.
HP says traditional distribution channels will be maintained, but did expect retail stores, such as PC World, Staples and Dixons, to be worried about a potential loss of business.
"We did expect the retailers to be worried so we warned them in advance, but found they are not concerned. They expected us to sell direct over the Web at some point," claimed Mitchell.
A spokesperson for the Dixons Group said she believed that any additional business created by HP will only serve to "broaden the market" and expects an increase in HP accessories bought through its stores.
Goods to be sold over the Web will be kept separately at a warehouse in Birmingham and will be managed by Irish Express Cargo (IEC). HP promises delivery in two to three days with stock being replenished each day. To try to keep tight rein on inventory, HP will allow users to only order goods currently in stock.
To avoid conflict with traditional channel partners, products sold through Shopping Village will not be heavily discounted and will instead cost the recommended retail price, sometimes higher than retail stores.
A delivery charge of between £4.95 and £40 is added to the price. Mitchell claimed that Shopping Village will attract, "people who know what they want and want it fast," who will be happy to pay the standard price plus the delivery charge if it comes with the promise of speedy delivery.
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