Toshiba Details New $20 Million Channel Program

The new program, which was first reported by CRN last month, is aimed in part at providing a level playing field for solution providers who buy Toshiba notebooks from distributors and must compete against direct marketer resellers such as CDW and Insight.

The program will be retroactive to April 1, Toshiba executives said.

The Toshiba program also includes substantial boost in rebates for VARs. Its Silver tier of solution provider will now get rebates of 1 percent, up from zero percent; its Gold tier will now get rebates of 2 percent, up from 1.5 percent; and its Platinum tier will now get rebates of 3 percent, up from 1.5 percent. The company aims to grow its business at double the market rate for notebooks. Toshiba has a total of between 5,500 and 6,500 solution providers in North America.

The company is also rolling out a new customer acquisition program, which will provide an extra 1.5 percent compensation for any net new customer a solution provider brings to the Irvine, Calif.-based vendor, Toshiba executives said. Toshiba is also planning to provide a Web site for partners to register new customers.

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The company will also expand its Easy Buy program to six new SKUs, up from two today, and solution providers will be able to obtain more demonstration models at a 40 percent discount, sources said. Top partners will now be able to access as many as 24 demo units per year, double the previous number.

On services, Toshiba is telling channel partners it will reimburse solution providers as much as 20 percent on service deals.

"We really looked at (our channel program) as it is, and said, 'Hey, let's not sit back and see where it takes us,'" said Patrick Mani, vice president of field sales for Toshiba. "'Let's kind of up the ante and let's really grow that with our channel partners."

Solution providers applauded the dramatic improvement in the channel program

Bob Venero, president and CEO of FutureTech, a Holbrook, N.Y., solution provider, said he expects to see a substantial increase in his Toshiba business as a result of the changes. "They have taken the best of all the competitive reseller programs and put them together into a master best of breed of offering," he said. "Toshiba is going to be able to take more market share and mind share from the reseller channel with these programs." FutureTech is planning to do a number of seminars in conjunction with Toshiba over the next several months.

The Toshiba program comes in the midst of changes that Lenovo is making to be more competitive. Venero said he believes that both Toshiba and Lenovo could end up increasing share given that Toshiba is aiming more aggressively at the corporate market, while Lenovo is getting more aggressive in the SOHO consumer segment of the market.

One improvement in the Toshiba channel program that FutureTech is taking advantage of is the program that provide demo model at 40 percent discount. FutureTech has outfitted its sales center with the latest Toshiba models and plans to refresh it with the latest models as they are released. "That is very important to us because when customers come in they are going to see cutting edge notebooks compared with something that is antiquated or out of date," he said.

John Marks, CEO of JDM Infrastructure, Rosemont, Ill. solution provider, said the new channel program is big improvement as long as the vendor delivers on its pledge to eliminate channel conflict. "It's a good program, but it is only good if they end the channel conflict which they assured us they have," he said. "I like that they have recognized what an acceptable margin for their product should be and they are giving resellers a chance to hit those numbers."