Comdex: Packard Bell will cut product lines, retailers

Packard Bell NEC Corp. is preparing to slice both its product line and the number of retailers it deals with directly.

The company will reduce the number of products it offers from around 20 to around 12, said Mal Ransom, senior vice president of marketing at the Sacramento-based PC maker. "The retailers are saying that the main thing they want is dependable products and dependable service," he said.

Ransom also said that over the next week or so, the company will reduce the number of US retailers it ships to directly down to 10 or less. The other US retailers in its channel -- 40 or so -- will go through a single distributor.

The goal is to focus the company's strengths, Ransom said. "These people today provide substantially more than 80 percent of our volume," he said. "It's important for us to focus."

The company, once the giant of the consumer PC market, has struggled mightily in recent years, losing both market share and money.

A new CEO, Alain Couder, was named earlier this year, and has been working on narrowing the company's focus, and restoring it to profitability..

Packard Bell NEC will set up its secondary retailers with Atlanta-based BDI, which will become Packard Bell NEC's exclusive distributor, Ransom said. BDI will also be one of the major customers that Packard Bell deals directly with, he said.

This marks the second time in the last few weeks that a major PC company has decided to cut back on the number of US resellers it deals with directly. Compaq Computer Corp. last week announced a new direct program that will allow consumers to bypass its US reseller partners.

Separately, the company's NEC Ready division also introduced a $999 (£624) sub-notebook aimed at the consumer market at Comdex. The NEC Ready 120LT features a 200MHz Media GX processor, 32MB of SDRAM, 2.1GB hard drive, built-in 56Kbps modem and external CD and floppy drives. The unit weighs 3.6 pounds, and has an 8-inch VGA screen.

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