Corel is notoriously difficult to get hold of. The UK channel team is invariably stuck on a plane somewhere over the Atlantic, on its way to or from Canada. When it comes to doing business this causes problems. As one dealer said: ?Poor souls, they do their best, but they?re always exhausted.?
Debbie Trenholm, UK channel manager (and experienced flyer) for Corel, claimed this was not an issue for partners and flashed a list of UK-based support phone numbers to prove it.
But according to Graham Sadd, sales director of dealer Infobank, this is not enough. ?It may be the age of the global village and email, but you still want to look people in the eye,? he said. Dealers have found it difficult to help Corel, when Corel has done little to help itself by being on the other side of the world.
Under the leadership of CEO Michael Cowpland, Corel?s mission has been to ?centralise, centralise, centralise?. When Corel bought Wordperfect from Novell 12 months ago, it shut down all the European offices and withdrew to Canada. Plans to pacify partners by introducing funded heads within top dealers never materialised.
Now, exactly a year later, the company has done an about-turn and announced its intention to establish itself in Europe, with offices in the UK, France, the Netherlands and Germany. Within the next six months, the software vendor will recruit nine staff for the UK office.
Cowpland has admitted he made a ?serious misjudgement?. His admission becomes significant against the backdrop of Corel?s financial performance as it reported its first loss in almost a decade at just under $3 million for FY 96, last month. Faced with a saturated home market, Corel has finally realised what the channel knew all along ? that it needs to support Europe, 40 per cent of its sales, if it is to be successful.
The decision has made a lot of people happy, even those who target retail. Alison Heath, sales director at CHS, was relieved. ?It?s brilliant that they?re going to have a local office. If you?re trying to make terms and negotiations with retailers, you need someone from Corel at hand.?
The increased focus should help build momentum within corporates but the vendor still faces an uphill struggle if it is to compete against Microsoft. Cowpland is optimistic that Corel will capture 50 per cent of office suite market share by next year but Corel is still in catch-up mode ? not just in terms of market share and product development but sleep, too. The decision to set up locally should sort out at least one of those problems.
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