Hewlett-Packard is planning to sell direct to European consumers via the Internet in a bid to steal some of the online business enjoyed by rivals Dell, Gateway and IBM.
Starting in the UK on 3 June, HP will pilot a scaled down version of its newly rebranded US direct online sales channel, HP Shopping Village, selling 71 consumer oriented products. HP plans to launch a similar pilot in Sweden at the end of June, and eventually expand the service across mainland Europe.
HP said it was missing out on sales opportunities by not having an Internet sales channel as more European consumers are choosing to buy only online. HP is targeting consumers who have so far overlooked HP printers and PCs as they weren't available online direct from the manufacturer.
HP said 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," said Trudie Mitchell, ebusiness manager at HP UK.
As a result, HP says it will maintain its traditional distribution channels. However, fears that retail stores such as PC World, Staples and Dixons would be concerned about losing business appear unfounded.
"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," said Mitchell.
A spokesperson for the Dixons Group said she believed that any additional business from HP will only serve to "broaden the market" expecting an increase in HP accessories bought through its stores.
HP products sold in Europe will include three different home PCs, midrange inkjet and laser printers, all in one products as well as ink cartridges and paper. Other products such as calculators and will be added later.
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. Keeping tight reins on inventory, HP allows 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.
Coupled with a delivery charge of between £5 and £40 the question is whether people will choose to buy HP products this way. Mitchell explained that Shopping Village will attract "people who know what they want and want it fast" and so will be happy to pay the standard price plus the delivery charge if it comes with the promise of speedy delivery.
To comment on this story, email [email protected]
Comcast's £29.7bn winning bid more than twice the £13.7bn Rupert Murdoch valued Sky at just eight years ago
A nuclear strike has been considered, but Bruce Willis is nowhere in sight
Spray-on antenna could enable seamless integration of antennas with everyday objects
Parker Solar Probe, TESS and GOLD missions will deliver exciting data, claims NASA