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A year ago: Few buy PCs for festivities

Napoleon's jibe brings shivers to shop timbers

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The UK sort of shuts down over the Christmas period, which gets longer and longer every year. Some years ago, the .gov here decided to extend the traditional Scottish bank holiday on New Year's Day to the rest of the country, meaning that many people thought it was hardly worth the effort going in for three days between bank holiday Boxing Day and Hogmanay. So The Register settled itself down on Christmas Eve for a good night's switching between 68 channels on the box but flicked back swiftly when we noticed that PC World (part of the Dixons group) was advertising a sale the day before the turkey got its chippolatas. Now we know that Intel has all sorts of secret plans afoot to cut prices but actually Dixons was just following the retail pack. Tradespeople, the sniffy upper class Brit-word for shopkeepers, were complaining bitterly that people were just not spending enough. The BBC reported, pre-Christmas, that the UK retail trade had something like £2 billion worth of stock they needed to shift in the early weeks of anno domini 1998. Although the malaise was not confined to superstores which sell PCs, The Register had warnings from big players as long as three months ago that all was not well on the PC front. A source at Acer said that stores it sold through were reporting sales of PCs were well down, and there seemed no prospect of a boom in the run up to the turkey-shoot. But our Acer moll said no-one was entirely clear why any of this was happening. The distributors who sell to the assembler trade had a much clearer idea. They said that when Intel made its last series of price cuts, back in the autumn, the assemblers put their plans on hold because they refused to lose a couple of points on making boxes. While we were astonished indeed at the price slashes on the PC World adverts, we were even more surprised at the positive flood of adverts from Lentil. Featuring the world famous Intel Bunnies™, the adverts were greeted with puzzlement by most sane (i.e. non-industry) folk. What could it all mean? Did Lentil have its finger on the PC pulse? People dressed in multicoloured suits dashing around in the sort of van that .gov agencies use to snoop on the subversives did not carry a very clear message, the sane people told us. Meanwhile, in Blighty at least, the toy shops were kept busy trying to supply an insatiable demand for a phenomenon known as the Teletubbies™. These huggables, unlike the Intel Bunnies™, were out of stock as our nation cried out for total silliness rather than Pentium IIs. * Register Joke .18 micron. Napoleon's famous jibe: "L'Angleterre est une nation de boutiquiers" came true in the sixties when Carnaby Street was full of boutiques. But what do you call a hand grenade rolling across a kitchen? Answer: Linoleum blown apart. ®

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