Wal-Mart's Mix-And-Match Line Doesn't Worry VARs

Wal-Mart this month began rolling out the mix-and-match formula to 1,200 of its 3,200 U.S. discount stores.

A Wal-Mart spokesperson said the Bentonville, Ark.-based retail giant is partnering with HP to offer mix-and-match choices of CPU units, displays, keyboards and mice.

Glen Coffield, president of Cheap Guys Computers, a system builder with six stores in Orlando, Fla., said he doesn’t think the Wal-Mart/HP effort will affect system builders.

“This is not a true build-to-order. This doesn’t even compare to what you can do at Office Depot or OfficeMax, where you can order a system from a build-to-order kiosk. This is minor customization,” Coffield said.

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“Wal-Mart is synonymous with low end. I don’t think the Wal-Mart name adds value to HP,” he added.

Other system builders also said they don’t expect this to impact their business because the retailer serves a different base of customers.

Samuel Sanchez, vice president of marketing at Coastline Micro, an Irvine, Calif.-based system maker, said Wal-Mart caters to cost-conscious consumers seeking rock-bottom prices rather than to small and midsize businesses looking for technology solutions.

Imad Boukai, president of Connect Computers, a system builder in Irvine, said retailers such as Office Depot may be impacted by Wal-Mart’s PC system effort. “I don’t think this will affect me,” Boukai said. “And I don’t think this will be a big part of Wal-Mart’s business.”

PC products currently sold on Walmart.com include HP Pavilion Media Centers, eMachines desktop systems, Acer TravelMate notebooks and Sony Vaio laptops.

Wal-Mart has been offering low-cost PCs and software to consumers for years. But system builders and VARs have been wary of retailers’ PC sales efforts because their low prices can drive down margins throughout all channels. Recently, Best Buy’s small-business sales department, Best Buy For Small Business, picked up Lenovo systems, a brand that is sold heavily in the VAR channel.