Toshiba eyes roaring retail channel

After posting solid notebook sales growth in the first quarter of 2004, Toshiba has no plans to rest on its laurels. New additions to its notebook range and a focus on building deep relationships with power retailers and distributors is the vendor’s recipe for sustained Middle East sales success.

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By  Stuart Wilson Published  June 15, 2004

After posting solid notebook sales growth in the first quarter of 2004, Toshiba has no plans to rest on its laurels. New additions to its notebook range and a focus on building deep relationships with power retailers and distributors is the vendor’s recipe for sustained Middle East sales success. IDC figures showed Toshiba’s UAE first quarter sales soaring from under 3,000 in 2003 to 6,788 units in 2004 while sales in Saudi Arabia almost doubled year-on-year to hit 6,251. Total sales across the Middle East totaled 29,708 for the six months ending March 2004 according to Matthias Blank, acting regional manager of Toshiba Middle East. Toshiba plans to develop its focused channel partner programme in the region to spearhead sales across all market sectors. With notebook sales soaring in the retail space, building up this channel-to-market still further remains a top priority. Toshiba has introduced two new models, the Satellite A50 and A60, to further flesh out its product portfolio. “We look to work with financially strong and capable partners in each country,” explains Blank. “At the same time we ensure that we do not have too many channel partners. Toshiba sees real benefits in having dedicated partners able to support customers and reinforce our message to partners.” “Sometimes it is necessary to work with more than one partner in a country to address all market segments,” adds Blank. “This is what we do in Saudi Arabia where we have a business-focused partner and a retail partner. In certain markets we have to make sure that we are being sold through the major retail chains.” Blank, who expects to be acting manager for the next two months before a permanent replacement is named, expects competition to intensify still further as the Middle East market matures: “Retailers will expand region-wide, new vendors will enter the market and margins will come under pressure. It will be the brand strength, marketing and channels-to-market that keep A-brand vendors like Toshiba above the B-brand competition. They may offer cheaper prices but we can offer post-sales support through service centres located in each country around the region.” While post-sales support is a definite plus, it is vital that customers ensure they are buying Toshiba product from authorised channels to receive warranty cover. Parallel imports entering the Middle East channel from the US are not covered. This grey product — brought into the region to take advantage of fluctuations in exchange rates — typically has US specifications, while Toshiba’s local service centres hold European parts. “We cannot stop channel players from buying and selling this product if they are not an authorised Toshiba distributor or dealer,” explains Blank. “But authorised channel partners will only sell products covered by the warranty agreement in the Middle East.”

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