Dell goes retail

Dell, already popular with online shoppers, has decided to go retail in the region and recently launched a big retail presence in Trinidad and Tobago.
Dell enters the TT retail market
Story by Mark Lyndersay, originally published in the Business Guardian on April 25, 2012.
Dell’s XPS Ultrabook model 13.3, the flagship laptop at its Noche Azul launch. Photography courtesy Dell.

A month ago, Dell made the surprise announcement that it would be servicing customer needs in Trinidad and Tobago through retail outlets, specifically seven new direct partners, Courts Stores, Intcomex, Star Computers, Techdata, Cubix, SED and AVNET.
Dell computers have long enjoyed a significant presence in the local computing landscape. The company’s direct sales and online configuration options met the elimination of duties and VAT on imported computer goods to the benefit of both the Texas-based computer supplier and local consumers.

The sheer number of Dell computer systems being shipped into Trinidad and Tobago quickly led to Dell authorising local repair centres in the country to service the volume of computers entering the country.
Businesses dealt profitably with Latin American suppliers for volume purchases and all seemed to be well in the world for shippers, Dell and consumers.

The change in this profitable status quo was big enough that Dell chose to have an event at the Trinidad Hilton, Noche Azul, with dim lighting, glowing blue lights, strategically placed laptop products and pretty girls in shiny dresses to let its channel partners know that things were going to be very different from now on.

Potential retailers and other Dell business partners would have been grateful to have lived long enough to see a company representative take a microphone and urge a response from the crowd, hollering “Do you wanna make money?”

This, clearly, was not going to be your daddy’s Dell, content to represent its services through efficient online database systems and brisk configuration and shipping.
Dell built its business throughout the 1990’s with a direct sales strategy that initially emphasised savings and evolved to distinguish itself with comprehensive customisation options.
The company is the sixth largest company in Texas by revenue and the second largest non-oil company in the state.

At least part of the reason for the change in a formula that’s worked for two decades seems to be the products themselves. The laptops at the front line of Dell’s marketing push are finished objects, not an aggregate of specification checkboxes in an online checkout process.
Some, like the sleek XPS13 Ultrabook, arguably the sexiest thing in the room at that launch party, are pretty much finished at the factory, with no visible options available for upgrading capacity within the case.

Others, like the gaming focused Alienware M14X are so heavily specified right out of the box that most won’t need to add much to press the computer into effective service.
The company has also been sensitive to the reality that online shopping isn’t particularly prevalent in some markets. Between 2007 and 2008, the company began shipping product to retailers in Canada, Budapest and Moscow.

It took Dell’s corporate communications department four weeks to respond to e-mailed questions about the new strategy, but the responses offer some insights into how customers will be engaging with the popular computer maker in the 21st century.
Dell’s partner program is now two years old and the extension of it into the Caribbean market is intended to grow sales share through planned sales strategies, architected in Miami, Panama and locally with their business partners.

The Trinidad and Tobago Channel Representative, Sanjeev Patel, is responsible for tech support escalations, customer service escalations, marketing and merchandising for partner stores in this country.
In addition to the laptop line on show at the launch event, Dell’s local partners will be offering the company’s popular business-focused Vostro line of desktops and notebooks, the budget priced Inspiron systems as well as entry level servers for small and medium businesses along with its attractively priced monitors and printers.

Dell will also be providing support for their channel partners with marketing development funds for advertising throughout the Caribbean and promoting customer focused events still to come.
Dell isn’t just doing this to make it easier for customers to casually buy their computers at a retailer or to respond to the growing lack of interest in fussing around inside computers to upgrade them.

The company has a Geo Expansion strategy for fiscal year 2013 which seeks to grow both the company’s presence and sales in the English speaking Caribbean.
Computer buyers can expect to hear more from the company as it rolls out that strategy during 2012 and fans of the company’s systems couldn’t be happier.
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