Shares in direct vendor rivals Dell and Gateway 2000 tumbled last week following further speculation that Compaq is planning to sell direct to customers.
According to US reports, the market leading PC manufacturer plans to make around 25% of its revenue from direct sales. The reports prompted a fall in Dell's shares of more than $3 to $65 and a $2.50 drop in Gateway's stock to $50.
Compaq UK called a high-level meeting of its major resellers last week at which it is understood to have outlined plans to bypass its dealers and sell directly into the small to medium enterprise (SME) market.
Compaq declined to comment on the rumour, but has previously denied any suggestion that it may be considering going direct. However, a spokesman for the company said a statement would be issued this week, concerning channel distribution strategy and a "significant investment in its indirect channel".
Mike Newton, managing director of Dell UK Corporate, dismissed the notion that his company would be concerned if Compaq went direct. "I think Compaq has recognised the price benefits Dell delivers to its customers due to low inventory costs. If I were Compaq, I'd certainly be thinking about this but I'd be mighty concerned what my dealers would think about it," he said.
Martin Hellawell, general manager of corporate development at Computacenter, a major Compaq dealer, denied this. "The SME sector is the obvious place for Compaq to sell direct if it wants to gain market penetration. The SME market is not usually addressed by dealers so it would definitely make sense," he concluded.
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