In its search for the next big thing in the PC world and what might appeal to a growing market of small businesses, Pacific Retail Group’s Big Byte chain will be putting more effort into Wi-Fi.
Over the chain’s two-and-a-half year life -- the first store was opened in Christchurch in October 2001 -- Big Byte has been rebalancing its emphasis to ensure it has “single focus” on the appropriate areas. A definite niche exists in the Wi-Fi sector, says PRG's manager of new business, Grant McKavanagh; two years in the future, every portable computer will have that capability as standard, he forecasts.
It's put its money where its mouth is by installing a Reach network in its stores. Reach offers customers wireless access using a phonecard-like charging system.
McKavanagh disputes the idea that the current depressed market might be a bad environment in which to expand a retail chain. Big Byte is not simply a “PC” company – it's "a technology company”, dealing in a range including cellphones and digital cameras. The retailer is also branching out into servicing the needs of small businesses. Wellington store manager Nal Ariyawansa characterises the target market as “the company with five to 20 employees”.
The Wellington Big Byte branch opened in September 2003, and the next is planned for Wairau Park, Auckland in May this year.
"It's the 'white box' stores, assembling their own machines, that have been closing down," McKavanagh says. A broad range of equipment and reselling of a number of respected PC brands puts Big Byte in a more secure region of the market.
Big Byte offers consulting services in home and business solutions, and a PC Clinic, where customers can get their machines checked out and upgraded and persistent malware removed. This emphasis on “service and solutions” will allow Big Byte to combat the “dramatic” drop in hardware margins, McKavanagh says.