Acer's Channel Strategy Pays Off

Acer America President Rudi Schmidleithner said he expects the unit to break even by year's end, something that hasn't happened for as long as he can remember. The difference, he said, is the vendor's focus on the channel.

Unlike in years past, Acer America now sells nearly 80 percent of its PC products through solution providers--with 20 percent through direct marketers and retail and none through direct sales.

A key to Acer's channel strategy here is to make sure all its channels get the same products at the same prices, Schmidleithner said. "We do not invent a slightly different product and ask the reseller to sell the product at $200 more," he said. "We do not do retail business here in the [United States where] the retailer wants to undercut the VAR price by $200 [in] mail-in rebates."

Acer Chairman and CEO Stan Shih said Acer America is now a pure channel play. "The [new] focus is to just support the distributor," he said. "A two-tiered distribution model is our only model. It keeps room for our distributors to help us to serve our big number of dealers and VARs."

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The channel has seen the difference. In CRN's Monthly Solution Provider Survey, the percentage of solution providers citing Acer as their best-selling desktop system jumped to 5 percent in September from 0 percent in May. That gain came at the expense of Hewlett-Packard and the white-box space. In notebooks, Acer's share rose to 10 percent in September from 2 percent in May, with HP and Dell losing ground. In PC servers, Acer increased to 4 percent in September from a 0 percent in May, with HP and white boxes losing share.

Solution providers said they have seen a big change in Acer over the past couple years.

Eric Greenspun, sales manager at ROI Computer Services, a Downington, Pa.-based solution provider, said Acer today is easier to work with than other vendors and prices its products more aggressively. "That's all I want--someone who'll be there for me with a reasonable price--and they are," he said.