Dell shuts 140 retail kiosks in US

Dell has closed its retail kiosks in 140 US malls as a part of retooling its distribution strategy

Dell on Wednesday announced the shutdown of retail kiosks in malls throughout the US as it adjusts its evolving product distribution strategy. A local Dell spokesperson said the shutdown would not impact the Australian market and its nine kiosks nationally.

The closings comes at a time when Dell is repositioning its retail strategy to attract more customers by selling products through its Web site, retail outlets and over the phone.

Dell had over 140 kiosks, called Dell Direct stores, for customers to buy products, including PCs, TVs and printers. Dell representatives staffed the kiosks and assisted buyers in choosing products and placing orders. The kiosks didn't actually carry inventory so products were shipped to buyers.

This change does not impact Dell Direct stores in Canada, Asia-Pacific and Japan, said Lionel Menchaca, digital media manager at Dell in a blog entry. The company has about 50 standalone kiosks outside the U.S.

"We started offering Dell systems through retailers about six months ago, and now customers can buy Dell desktops and laptops through more than 10,000 retail outlets worldwide," Menchaca wrote.

The needs for kiosks declined as retail stores provide more accessibility to Dell products, said Dell spokesman David Frink. The kiosks, introduced in 2002, are being closed immediately, Frink said.

The shutdown might lead to laying off employees who staffed the kiosks, Frink said. He declined to comment on an exact number of layoffs and charges that the company might take relating to the shutdown.

Dell has expanded its in-store offerings over the last six months by signing up retailers globally to sell its products, including Best Buy and Wal-Mart in the US, Tesco in the UK and Bic Camera in Japan.

The kiosks were just an expansion of the company's online and catalog sales, an analyst at IDC, David Daoud, said. "If anything, it shows that Dell doesn't want kiosks to compete with the brick and mortar stores," he said. Customers prefer to buy products online or at a store so having kiosks doesn't fit with Dell's evolving U.S. business model, Daoud said.

However, kiosks will be an effective tool to facilitate brand awareness for Dell in the international and emerging markets, especially for customers who can't go online, Daoud said. Though it has a significant enterprise presence internationally, Dell has the potential to grow in the consumer space, Daoud said.

Dell's retooled retail strategy has helped the company expand its lead over Hewlett-Packard as the largest US PC vendor in the fourth quarter of 2007, according to figures from analyst firms, Gartner and IDC. However, HP remained the world's largest PC dealer, topping Dell, Acer and Lenovo, according to figures from both firms.

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