Every year yet another survey highlights conflict in the channel ? and this week has seen the publication of two. But both make interesting reading. According to Romtec, one-third of European resellers have dumped their vendors in the past year. So channel conflict is flourishing and seemingly being kept alive by the careful nursing of distributors and vendors. And the poor dealer is at the end of the food chain.
Obviously it is not in a vendor?s best interests to nurture chaos in the channel, but why is conflict still so pronounced and why have no fundamental solutions been put into action? Over 60 per cent of resellers have had spats with vendors recently ? a quite staggering figure. The major complaints seem to be fuzzy to non-existent channel policies and resellers? accusations that vendors are fleecing them with steep pricing policies. Is this the case? Anecdotal evidence, which we quote elsewhere on this page, suggests this may be so in some cases, but is almost certainly exaggerated in many others.
More worryingly, Romtec?s Channels in Europe 96 report details a depressing catalogue of broken-down communications within the channel worthy of an Ealing comedy. And if vendors are really a modern-day version of the Lavender Hill Mob, this goes some way to explaining the churn in the channel.
The picture emerging from this report and the one from IDC is one of a failure to understand one of the many much-vaunted phrases which is bandied about this industry: partnership. How can you go into partnership with a company one day and then, while the relationship is still young, either stuff their channel out with unwanted products or strip them naked and rob them? Can this be a metaphor for the state of UK plc as a whole?
In one report, none of the vendors were rated by the distributors on product delivery and business support. This is astonishing, but it rings true when read in conjunction with the comments David Winn of the IBM PC division made last week about the chaos blighting its PC production. While IBM and Digital came first in the quality stakes, IBM fell down badly on product delivery and margins.
If everyone is making the same effort as IBM, and vendors, distributors and dealers can reach real partnership agreements that will lessen financial strain, we may see improvements soon. And, of course, we live in hope.
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