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Bob’s Byte

Taking Kickbacks: Vendors ARE Equally Guilty

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 Taking Kickbacks: Vendors ARE Equally Guilty

A former Apple manager with responsibilities for the company's contract manufacturing in Asia was arrested for accepting kickbacks from half a dozen Asian suppliers of iPhone and iPod accessories.

He allegedly was paid for confidential Apple information he shared with contractors to help them secure Apple business on reasonable terms.

If he hadn't left the company…if only he had wiped his drive… then Apple would have never discovered a Microsoft Entourage database of e-mails and a cache of Hotmail Continue reading...

CeBIT: Last Man Standing

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CeBIT: Last Man Standing

The end of the long walkway from train station to CeBIT entrance...and a long way to still go to Hall 14...

Heinz Nixdorf died on the fairgrounds at CeBIT. That thought keeps coming back to me. And he probably had minions to carry his bags.

It's 8pm on the evening before CeBIT 2010 officially opens and I am exhausted from laboriously dragging my too-many bags from the train station at Hannover-Laatzen across the people-mover bridge to the Hannover fairgrounds.

All the important folks are in warm seats at the Opening Ceremony but I am late, cold and walking into the show. The Chancellor of Germany, Angela Merkel, is on stage tonight which tells you how important the CeBIT show is in Germany.

I descend from the covered people-mover that arches high over the flat landscape, wondering if my final distance will be 2km or 4 km by the time I reach my Hall. CeBIT takes the measure of a man.

Outdoors now, the cold hits me. It's a penetrating Northern cold...the type that bites your nose instead of nibbling your ears.

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What We Missed About iPAD

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What We Missed About iPAD

No one and no product could have lived up to the hype that preceded the Apple iPad launch. Not even Steve Jobs who cranked up the hype machine in the first place.

Steve Jobs stood there on stage, iPad in hand like Moses with The Tablet, and a list of his own Commandments: Thou shall create a product category between smartphones and netbooks. Thou shall not have strange devices before you. Thou shall not covet thy neighbour’s goods...

But this time, this very time when we knew what we wanted, when we knew what to expect...somehow it didn’t turn out to be the Second Coming we expected. (Actually for Steve it’s the Third Coming but why quibble?) Continue reading...

How Distribution Really Functions

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How Distribution Really Functions

MAKING A "DENT" in DISTRIBUTION

Reading the book, Distribution Channels by Julian Dent, even an experienced Channel Manager begins to systematize, integrate and mesh together their own pieces of personal experience for a better understanding of channel dynamics.

For a subject as important to many thousands of distributors and suppliers, little has been written down about the balancing act known as “distribution”.

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Top Stories of 2008

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Each of us has his/her own favorites but industry-wide you’d have to vote for (in random order):

Blu-Ray Defeats HD-DVD

The Rise of Netbooks

The Disappointment of VISTA

Google’s Android Entry

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Future of Consumer Electronics

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Future of Consumer Electronics

For RETAILVISION MIDDLE EAST, Bob was asked to present a 30-minute speech  for Power Retailers in the Middle East on what is coming in retail in the near future. Much of the work that Bob did seems to apply to European retailers and distributors as well.

BUT, to take full advantage of this free PowerPoint, you'll need to also read the NOTES underneath the Power Point. There Bob shows you his source material, provides links to manufacturers, and further explains why the product or trend is significant. You can download this Presentation for free from SlideShare Continue reading...

‘Bye, ‘Bye Bloatware

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There’s a great tradition in retail called the “A/B Comparison” display. You remember it from stereo days: you put up one set of loudspeakers (A) and demo against them with (B). It’s one of the most effective ways to sell a customer.

In that tradition, some Best Buy stores in USA maintain a display of two identical HP computers. One screen is cluttered with eBay, Quicken, AOL, Yahoo etc. The other is entirely free. Best Buy staff use this display to warn buyers that gratis software can slow their PCs-- by as much as 25-30%.

And for only $30, Best Buy will get rid of the very software that the PC maker thought you the buyer might want or need. The only problem with Best Buy’s newest value-added (or value-subtracted!) service is that software makers pay $2 to $10 to load up makers like HP and others.

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IFA Says Up, But Are Appliances Up “Right?”

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IFA Says Up, But Are Appliances Up “Right?”

If you entered from the South entrance, there was something new this year at IFA Berlin. Berlin’s famous brown good show turned white, white as a ghost.

The ghost of appliances, that is. This year an exclusive exhibition area measuring 25,000 square metres in Halls 1.1 to 4.1 was earmarked for HOME APPLIANCES@IFA.

There’s this photo of Miss IFA precariously perched on a Siemens appliance and what a perfect visual analogy. The relationship between white goods and brown goods has been tenuous at best throughout the years. And Miss IFA won’t be comfortable for the long term on that appliance either.

The ghost of major appliances has haunted consumer electronics ever since an appliance store first decided to add a new product called TV to its product mix. Appliance/TV was one channel, radio/TV another and furniture/TV was a third.

The evolution of high fidelity (it grew out of the furniture console and into self-stacking separates) and TV (it, too, left the wood-grained box for a future separated from furniture) put distance between white goods and “brown goods” channels. And eventually hi fi dealers were born and then video stores and computer dealers. The specialty channels were born and thrived.

Some of those channels eventually added back major appliances, but normally when you see the two physically together…they mix like oil and water.

Brown goods usually require high technical knowledge for sales and service, skills which need to get more complex with time. While white goods need more practical skills and "brute force" to manipulate the devices and heavy tools required to repair them.

IFA cites their motivation as their research showing home appliances fall in same Top 10 lists for consumer purchases as LCD TVs and personal computers.

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Top 10 Trends for Consumer IT

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Oh, how we envy those Tier 1 companies with their big budgets and their ability to spend their way to success. Being big comes with a series of challenges that make SME’s cringe. Below are the Top Ten trends that high volume retailers and vendors will confront in 2008.

ONE
Cash & Credit Crunch
Headwinds from the macroeconomy (outside of our industry) now cloud the outlook for the business climate and the consumer spending environment for retailers. The European Bank says “a perfect economic storm” is on the horizon. Let’s not talk ourselves into a recession but acknowledge the reality of America’s mortgage and foreclosure crisis, UK’s Northern Rock fiasco, France’s Société Générale’s rogue trader scandal, Germany’s government-backed bailouts of German banks, and Spain’s new reliance on ECB finding for their banks.

A solid credit rating and healthy balance sheet will serve retailers well during 2008 as they again demonstrate why cash is king. With consumer spending constrained by economic weakness and tight credit, the marginal players in the industry are in for a tough time. Companies who struggled to grow sales last year, even when growth was robust, may have increase borrowings under their credit lines, if they haven’t already done so, to fund operations. Financial and credit managers from distributors, retailers and vendors should observe these trends at www.ecf-congress.eu

TWO
Search for Perceived Value
Retail in affluent economies is an emotion-filled business where product purchases are driven by consumers’ desires to satisfy wants, rather than simply meet needs. In an environment where consumers have a lot of reasons to feel unsettled about the economy, retailers need to demonstrate value-added on top of compelling prices and quality merchandise.

THREE
Growth for Private Brands and Branded Non-Brands
The increased penetration of private brands is not a new phenomenon, but with retailers and disties facing tough market conditions for 2008, the allure of direct sourcing will result in acceleration. The capabilities of retailers’ internal product development teams have improved, but building a brand from scratch is never easy, so the more common strategy involves entering into exclusive distribution agreements.

Interesting note: in what appears to be an oxymoron, there’s a trend to successfully brand Private Label

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