The past year has seen massive consolidation among corporate dealers, with Hamilton Rentals, Holdene and Xenon all snapped up. But there is clearly some kind of divine balance in the universe, as a number of niche dealerships have sprung up in the past month.
Newbury-based Net Team and Chippenham-based RPL were set up by redundant Dataway staff when the firm went into receivership three weeks ago. RPL specialises in Novell groupware solutions and Net Team is trying to win old Dataway customers in hardware maintenance and Microsoft groupware.
On the networking side, three former Cabletron managers have set up PBS as a 3Com, Cisco and Cabletron reseller. And Richmond-based systems integrator Ciscom officially starts business as a Cisco dealer next week, formed by four staff from Persona.
But are these venturers stepping blindly into the future? Receiverships were also big news last year, and only last week PC Dealer reported the crash of channel conglomerate Anglo.
Sandy Cals-Summers, European distribution channels analyst at Dataquest, said the high incidence of start-ups was partly caused by a large number of firms going into receivership. ?Things are definitely tough and staff who are being made redundant are starting up their own companies,? she said.
The high margins in networking or groupware are particularly likely to attract people who strike out alone. Also, with vendors such as Cabletron moving towards an indirect channel model, direct sales staff could be tempted to continue dealing with users in their own company.
Ciscom MD Ian McTaggart recognises the challenges of going it alone but is bullish about the future. ?The networking industry is going manic,? he said. ?Cisco is the dominant player and we have a great deal of in-house skill in that area.
?Despite the huge drive we have to succeed, strength is knowing your limitations and keeping focused. The companies that go down are inevitably those that overstretch themselves by getting embroiled in something they cannot handle.?
John Chapman, MD of networking distributor Data Tec UK, said most of the firms sound as if they will do well. ?They are all experts in their field and have a large number of contacts and a lot of knowledge between them,? he said. ?The main issue for start-ups is credit. Unless they have good backing to see them through the initial phase there will be problems as they have no credit history with distributors.?
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