Dell has signed a direct agreement with Currys PC World to stock its PCs in a move it claims marks a "very significant" refocus on its UK consumer strategy.
From today, The Dixons Carphone-owned retailer will stock the Del XPS, Inspiron and Alienware ranges in its UK stores.
Until last year, Dell's consumer strategy was focused on the US, Canada, China, Brazil and India, where in some regions its consumer PC market share is between 15 and 20 per cent. But in the UK, its market share in the same space stands at just three per cent thanks to its direct-only strategy.
Last summer, Dell signed up Exertis to reignite its retail plans, and Amazon, John Lewis and Very were signed up as consumer retailers at the end of 2015. Although Exertis is "absolutely" part of its retail plans, Dell said, the Currys PC World relationship will be managed direct by Dell.
Dell's direct-only strategy has changed significantly in the last few years. Historically, in the commercial channel and in the consumer space, the vendor operated direct. But that has changed and on the business side, the company now sees half of its EMEA revenue come through resellers.
Today's Currys PC World news is the "most significant" step in its retail push, according to Dell's general manager for retail, consumer and small business Jamil Nathoo.
"A few years ago we said were going to focus on five select markets globally from a consumer perspective," he told CRN. "Obviously commercially we were always going to be present in the UK and driving as hard as we could. Then once we had successfully grown those markets for Dell, we decided to come back. Over the past nine months we have been selectively adding retailers we can develop a long-term relationship with. The Dixons announcement is the most significant step in that journey. That's been the logic right through."
He said Dell laptops have not been "on shelf" in the UK in three or four years until its recent push.
Dixons Carphone's category manager for Windows laptops Cameron Gittoes said that demand is strong for Dell laptops, with the brand making up one in 10 searches on its website.
"[We didn't] range anything, so there is a big market out there for Dell laptops which we are currently unable to fulfil to the customer," he said.
Allowing customers to pick up and look at the machines themselves is a crucial benefit of selling through retailers, according to Gittoes. Freeform Dynamics' distinguished analyst Tony Lock agrees.
"Not everyone is as familiar with computer technology as you or I," he said. "There are a lot of people who go into a store and say 'what do I need?'. People just need basic purchase advice as well."
Lock added that the Currys PC World news demonstrates Dell's move away from its direct roots, which he said is a good thing.
"The main thing I think it shows is basically what Dell has been doing in the enterprise space for the last four or five years," he said. "The company recognised a long time ago that direct was great, but it was never going to reach everyone.
"There was a clear need for them to develop channels and it started off in the enterprise space and is now happening in the consumer area.
"It makes perfect sense as far as I can see. You can't reach all customers with just one methodology. And I would also argue that the channel has been an essential for everyone – in business just as much as in consumer."
When asked if today's Currys PC World announcement is indicative of this shift away from its direct heritage, Dell's Nathoo said: "What we've found in other countries where we have been very successful is that we need that retail coverage. Consumers highly value that retail experience and to touch and feel the product. We've seen that co-existing very well with our direct business.
"But the bulk of the market prefers to buy through retail for very good reason. We've seen it as an opportunity, rather than a negative for direct. It's the market speaking to us."
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