UK missing out on best corporate deals

IT vendors are trying to tempt corporate customers to maintain their spending levels with a range of flexible payment schemes....

IT vendors are trying to tempt corporate customers to maintain their spending levels with a range of flexible payment schemes. But the deals on offer in the UK lag behind those available in the US.

IBM, Sun and Hewlett-Packard are among the vendors to offer special purchasing schemes in the US. In the UK, however, the deals appear to depend on individual relationships between users and suppliers and their relative bargaining strength, rather than matching the straightforward offers available across the Atlantic.

In the US, for example, IBM Global Financing is offering qualified customers 90-day payment deferrals and/or interest rates as low as 5.1%. HP is offering to beat competitors' trade-in deals by 10%, in a bid to switch customers from IBM S80 or p680 and Sun E10K servers to its high-end Superdome Unix server.

Chris Jones, analyst for channel research specialist Canalys, said: "I have not heard of anything like that in Europe. While the market is flat we need incentives to boost sales."

Thomas Ullrich, Unix server manager for HP Europe, confirmed Jones's view, admitting that there was no equivalent of the US scheme for UK customers.

"People are investing very carefully, especially since 11 September," he said. "We have a number of financing programmes - such as not paying interest for the first year - and a number of points where we can become more flexible." But he admitted there is no "special standard programme".

Ullrich pointed to HP's "try and buy scheme", where customers can rent a system instead of buying it.

"It is a Unix-based offer on all systems. Customers can rent out a system for three months and decide to buy or return it after that period. If they decide to buy, up to 90% of the rental fee can be accounted for against the purchasing price."

Stephen Way, director of communications for the IBM User Group said: "There is always a certain amount of flexibility in the UK for big ticket purchases at the end of the financial year: delivering in December but billing in April, for example. That way they can meet sales targets and customers' needs for staggered payments."

But, he continued," the UK is a much smaller market than the US and deals are more likely to be done on a personal basis."

Chris Atkins, acting product marketing manager for Sun Microsystems, said it was company policy to offer deferred payments and that this method was becoming increasingly popular.

"We have always tried to build a payment profile that matches when customers can make payments," said Atkins.

"Customers are looking to suppliers to be more flexible; not necessarily expecting them to drop prices, but certainly to be more creative about payment options. Customers have finance needs and technology needs. It is not the gravy train it was two or three years ago and customers are focusing more on their finance needs."

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