Merry Xmas for some, not so merry for others

Will PC sales be merely steady or strong this Christmas? That depends on who you ask. Compaq marketing manager Tony Lambert says the PC consumer market is steady overall, although Com-paq itself is booming -particularly in the consumer market. Lambert says that for the consumer market in general there was a dip in early November, but sales picked up again and he expects them to remain steady up to Christmas. He says the corporate PC market has been steady since June, after the first few months of 1997 being "a bit of a slog".

Will PC sales be merely steady or strong this Christmas? That depends on who you ask.

Compaq marketing manager Tony Lambert says the PC consumer market is steady overall, although Com-paq itself is booming —particularly in the consumer market.

Lambert says that for the consumer market in general there was a dip in early November, but sales picked up again and he expects them to remain steady up to Christmas.

He says the corporate PC market has been steady since June, after the first few months of 1997 being “a bit of a slog”.

Lambert believes growth margins for some players are now getting very slim and that the first quarter of next year is likely to see some companies following in the footsteps of PC General and Lowes, which fell over this year.

However, HP retail business manager Mike Carden is more optimistic, both about Christmas sales and local assemblers’ survival.

“I would say it’s better than steady — I think it’s pretty strong.”

He doesn’t believe there are as many people still depending on a “big Christmas”, but adds that this Christmas will be stronger than last year’s.

He believes business will be stimulated by lower prices of products such as digital imaging equipment.

He is positive about local assemblers, saying most of those left are “pretty good outfits”. Some might collapse, if they have invested too heavily in retail space.

Dell, which concentrates mainly on the corporate-government market, says it has had an exceptional year. New Zealand general manager Ross Allan says another record quarter is expected at the end of January.

IDC general manager Graham Penn predicts growth of 9% in the PC market for 1997, and expects 5% growth next year.

Q3 was reasonably strong, largely in the corporate-replacement market.

“It’s not wildly robust, but there’s steady growth.”

He doesn’t believe it will be a “boom” Christmas.

“It doesn’t mean to say it’s going to be disastrous, but the more astute vendors have been suitably cautious, so there shouldn’t be heaps of stock overhanging the market at the end of December.”

He says some major vendors have significant new products coming early in 1997 and won’t want the channel blocked with old stock.

As with last year, Penn says there is no compelling reason to buy a PC before Christmas, particularly with improved technology coming up. Last year some people waited for MMX. This year they could wait for features like universal serial bus, advanced graphic port, faster Pentium II processors, DVD and larger hard drives.

Penn believes that this Christmas there is a two-horse race in the branded PCs — between Hewlett-Packard and Compaq.

He says there are also many smaller players such as Mitac, Packard Bell and local assemblers. “The local assemblers have still got some good buys, particularly on specs. PC Direct will achieve pretty good sales into this market.”

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