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Dell expands its Canadian retail play to Staples Business Depot

In addition to notebooks and desktops, the vendor will bring printers, ink and toner to 280 Staples stores and Staples.ca

Nearly eight months after Dell entered the Canadian retail market with Wal-Mart, the former direct darling is expanding its retail play through an agreement with Staples that will see an even wider array of Dell products available at 280 stores across Canada and online at Staples.ca.

The Dell offerings are available at Staples now, building on an earlier agreement between the two companies in the U.S. market.

While Wal-Mart stores carried a limited number of Dell’s desktops and notebooks Staples will carry a wider Dell product line, including a number of printers and Dell’s line of toner and ink products.

Louis Houde, consumer retail with Dell Canada, says Staples gives Dell the ability to really go direct to consumers.

“They own a significant portion of the office superstore consumer marketplace, and are one of the strongest retailers in the imaging, ink and toner section of the market,” said Houde. “Having our products at retail with ink and toner and printers adds a new element for us in the retail world.”

Staples was able to carry a wider product line because it has more display space dedicated to consumer electronics, although Dell does have a good portion of Wal-Mart’s overall technology display space, says Houde.

“(Staples is) a strong leader in the ink and toner fulfillment in Canada, so we’ve got a very wide assortment of all of our ink and toner through their channel for the first time ever,” he said.

Rick Atkinson, director of merchandising with Staples Business Depot, says Dell has a very strong brand and there was demand for it from Staples customers.

“From our perspective, we’re really bringing good quality product to our own customers who perhaps wouldn’t shop online,” said Atkinson. “It expands the breadth of product we can offer to our customers.”

Staples will offer a line of pre-configured notebooks and desktops selected by the retailer to meet the needs of its customers, which Atkinson says are a balance of consumers and small business owners. The offerings will include a number of Inspiron and XPS laptops, three flat panel monitors, two all-in-one printers and one laser printer, plus Dell’s full line of ink and toner products. The chain already works with vendors such as HP, Toshiba and Acer, as well as Canon in the printer space.

“One of the things Dell brings us that we haven’t had in our stores is colour. Customers are demanding more and more fashion in their notebooks, so we’re carrying pink and red along with the regular black notebooks,” said Atkinson. “We’re seeing some good successes already with those colours.”

With the offerings also available online through Staples.ca, the retailer will be in competition with Dell’s own Web channel, but Atkinson says Staples’ online buyers are a completely different segment of customers, mainly business people that shop online with their Staples credit card on a regular basis.

“I think those are people that perhaps wouldn’t have bought Dell originally,” said Atkinson. “We’ll also have products that will be competitively priced and desirable to people that are happy with getting a standard configuration. We think we’ll compete well against them.”

Dell’s lessons learned
Dell has been learning since it first entered the retail channel, says Houde. For example, based on feedback from Wal-Mart they’ve redesigned their boxes for the retail channel to include more information on the hardware and software specifications. It is also looking at ways of balancing loss prevention tools with letting customers get a feel for the products.

“It’s gone well. We see great value in that sales channel and that’s why we’re continuing to expand,” said Houde. “It becomes a new element for us to continue our growth in the consumer segment.”

In late January, Dell announced it was closing its 140 retail kiosks in malls across the U.S. to focus on its developing retail channel. Dell has some 18 mall kiosks across Canada, but Houde says there are no plans to close the retail kiosks at this time.

“Right now we’ve not made the decision in Canada to close, we’re continuing. We’re happy with the performance we’re seeing through the kiosks,” said Houde. “They’re driving some good business for us and they allow us to… show some of the new products we’ve got.”

While Dell is working with a number of other retailers in the U.S., including Best Buy, Houde declined to speculate on future announcements in the ­Canadian market. ­

“We can tell you we’re not done with our expansion into retail,” said Houde. “We’ll continue to look at what the Canadian marketplace can bear and what partners can fit our strategy.”