Hewlett Packard will sign about 350 UK resellers in a franchising agreement aimed at bringing office centre IT solutions to small and medium enterprises (SMEs).
The firm has also persuaded directors from one of its distributors, Westcoast, to invest in Netfire, the company set up to handle the Hewlett Packard office centre franchises.
Westcoast MD Joe Hermani and financial director Harry Walker are the major investors in Netfire, which will be run with former HP account manager John Mostyn as MD.
A source close to HP said: 'Westcoast put in a proposal about a year ago suggesting this sort of franchising operation and HP said that they should put their money where their mouth is. It has no direct bearing on Westcoast's distribution business and is just another investment for Hermani and Walker.'
HP has given Netfire the master licence to sign resellers up as franchisees, according to selection criteria. Mostyn said: 'Dealers have to commit at least 25 per cent of their showroom space as well as proving a level of training and demonstration facilities and making a flat-fee payment.
In exchange they will be given the HP office centre badge and receive marketing help and business aid, such as accountancy services.'
Initially, advertising will be centrally controlled and part-funded by HP to establish the office centre logo nationally.
Dave Thompson, European marketing manager of HP's PC division, said the firm wants to sign new and existing dealers to the scheme, which is aimed at providing business solutions to SMEs.
The firm stressed that Netfire was a separate firm from both HP and Westcoast, although its whole business is in managing HP's office centre franchises. The office centres will still source product through HP distributors.
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