Apple has begun to roll out an electronic reseller programme in the US as it searches for a way to boost its performance, and the initiative will be extended to Europe early next year.
Dealers who wish to sell Apple kit via a Web site can apply now but will be subject to the same terms and conditions as other partners and will be barred from selling servers.
The emphasis will be on dealers that can provide added value and high quality services by using the Web medium, not on box shifting, said an Apple source. He added that this was just the first of a planned series of moves to shake up the channel to increase revenues, margins and customer value, and cut back on dealers competing on price alone.
Only companies that agree to sell at least $10 million worth of Apple products can become Electronic Resellers, and they must also sign up to a long list of conditions. For instance, they must provide searchable electronic catalogues, security measures such as digital identification, and an "in-store" experience on the Web site. They must also be available to provide telephone or Internet support with real time response at least six days a week and 12 hours a day.
"Focusing on value is the way ahead for Apple," said one dealer. "They will not have enough of a mass market in the future to rely on large volumes of cheap kit to keep them alive." However, some analysts believe Apple's refusal to enter price wars with PC makers has been a root cause of its recent downfall.
Although the scheme will be extended to European dealers - probably with similar terms and conditions - current recruits must add controls to their order fulfilment systems to prevent shipment outside the US.
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