Dell's global head of channels is planning to instate Tech Data and Ingram Micro as European distributors before the year is out, with the aim of recruiting SME VARs into PartnerDirect and rubber stamping its commitment to partnering.
Yesterday, the industry heavyweight revealed it had signed up with the two broadliners in the US to promote a limited set of SKUs - 11 Vostro desktops and 3 notebooks - and will shortly kick-off the relationship in Canada.
This is the first time in Dell's 24-year history that it has appointed a distributor to carry its PCs, in a move that is bound to ruffle the feathers of long standing channel allies Hewlett-Packard, Acer and Lenovo.
Talking to MicroScope, Greg Davis, Dell vice president of worldwide channels said it wanted to get the US deals running smoothly before it turned its attentions elsewhere.
"As soon as we get the first bit behind us we'll begin to look at other product lines and geographies, hopefully in the near term," he said. When asked if that meant a roll out in Europe this year he replied: "I certainly hope so."
"Both distributors will help us reach more partners, there are still partners that are wary of Dell and I hope this is a move that will say Dell is not pulling away from the channel, we are investing more in the channel," Davis added.
Julian Klein, UK managing director at Ingram Micro, said it was the firm's policy not to pre-announce vendor relationships and Computer 2000 was unavailable to comment at the time of going to press.
In the US, Dell had been looking at ways to integrate a distribution model in its PC market for some months, which has taken a lot of operational work.
"Every process, whether it be orders, warranties or shipping has been built around a direct model," said Davis, "we have worked hard to integrate new processes to support our partners."
To date, Dell has signed up with UK distributors Micro P to sell its printer line and Hammer to stock the EqualLogic storage line and had previously hinted it was not averse to working with additional distributors.
Resellers that require standard Vostro SKUs can buy from distribution on next day delivery, something Dell previously lacked, but those wanting customised boxes will still be able to buy direct from the vendor.
By limiting the number of SKUs available to distribution, Dell is taking a more targeted approach to minimise the stock carried by Tech Data and Ingram and reckons this will work well with the BTO model.
"Distributors don't have a run rate today so it is hard to pinpoint the amount of stock they will carry in terms of days," he said, "clearly our goal is to have just enough stock available to partners without building a lot of inventory."
Lead times on orders are generally four to seven days but Dell planned to monitor levels with the distributors and replenish when required.
Davis said resellers will also be able to benefit from the wholesalers' credit lines and any promotions they run with Dell on the desktops and notebooks.
Pricing is a key issue for channel partners but Dell will share the discounts it gives to VARs with distributors to ensure a level playing field.