The Editor's Notes...
Robert Lock, Publisher/Editor
The Price Wars
We've recently been hearing increasingly interesting rumors regarding the problems/solutions of "conflict" between mail order houses and "store-front" dealers. We've discussed the matter before on these pages and, without taking sides, the situation is simply this.
Retail outlets, with higher operating expenses, potentially greater overhead, customer service and training in varying degrees, and so on, tend to lean mainly in the direction of "Manufacturer's Suggested List Price."
Many mail order houses, on the other hand, with perhaps less expectation of personnel intensive support, training, and so on (plus potentially far greater volume) tend to discount.
This has been the nature of retailing in the industry for a long time with the lines of argument frequently becoming rather heated. Some stores, for example, refuse to carry magazines, feeling that there's truth, we suppose, in the age old adage: see no evil, buy no evil. For our part, we understand perfectly why a retail store would be completely frustrated by a customer who makes three or four visits to explore hardware and then buys direct, at lower cost, from a mail order house.
The Competition Increases (Decreases?)
Now we hear that Apple is seeking to squelch some of their mail order discounters, a move we would venture is calculated to, among other things, increase dealer loyalty in the face of the recent IBM entry.
Now the interesting part of this analysis is that Apple sells direct to dealers, while Atari has set up regional distributors. In the past, the discount mail order business could be classified as a fair fight, in the sense that dealers were venturing volume against home town support, etc., etc. Pricing, to them, was roughly similar.
Now, however, we're hearing that a "third" level is being added to the fray: essentially distributor supported and sponsored mail-order houses who, because they have better initial profit margins, can have the best of both worlds. They sell to dealers, both store-front and mail order, plus sell to the end-user through their own mail-order house. Naturally enough, their discount pricing can be more than competitive.
Where Does It Go From Here?
We would guess that time will bring changes in the basic methods of distribution, with the needs and demands of the consumer for fair pricing and support balancing with the needs and demands of the dealers for reasonable profit margins and competitive business practices. We'd like to hear from end users, dealers, and others involved in the distribution process for your comments and suggestions.
Can you really use this machine for some practical applications at home? We certainly think so, and our recent requests for such articles has been well received by you reader/users. This issue presents "Window Analysis." In two versions, one for Microsoft BASIC and one for Atari BASIC, you'll be able to explore how efficiently your house is using solar power to cut heating/cooling costs. Using several variables, you can decide how to optimize the benefits of free sunlight by making computer-assisted changes; shades, awnings, shrubs, etc.
If you've developed an interesting, usefull home or small business application such as this, please write it up and send it in. Where possible, we'll "homogenize" it in-house (we developed the Atari BASIC version here), and present it for all readers to enjoy. If you take an application in COMPUTE!, such as "Maze Maker" in this issue, and develop an interesting game around it, we'd like to see that too.
Trade Shows And More Trade Shows
We mentioned in last issue's editorial that more regional/local dealers and distributors were in evidence at the last Boston Show, and fewer manufacturers. This pattern repeated itself at the recent show in San Francisco. With our industry generating new trade shows faster than new computers these days, I suspect we'll see this quickly become the norm. Manufacturers and principals will attend a few shows each year; local distributors and dealers will handle the rest.