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Rapid sells MacLine as Apple readies channel cull

Apple UK wants to shift focus away from mail order and onto retail

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UK reseller Rapid Group has sold its two of its four Mac channel operations, well-known mail order dealer MacLine and AppleCentre Cambridge. That leaves Rapid with Thames Valley Systems and London-based C J Graphics. The latter was acquired from previous owner Floral Street Plc only a few weeks ago. The move will see MacLine relocating to AppleCentre Cambridge's offices and will take over its business, including its shop-front operation. The new owner, ex-Insignia Solutions business manager Garrett Doyle, said the AppleCentre Cambridge would cease to exist as a separate entity. For MacLine the deal is probably a good move. It comes as Apple UK continues the reorganisation of its channel, which will next feature a cull of mail order resellers and an increased focus on the AppleCentre concept in particular and retail sales in general. The changes to the mail-order channel will see Authorised Resellers -- ie. those who buy through the company's distributors, Ingram Micro and C2000 -- forbidden from advertising as mail order dealers. Only the UK's three biggest mail order specialists, Computer Warehouse, MacWarehouse and Jigsaw will retain the right to do so. Apple UK's pitch is that the 15-odd UK dealers selling off-the-page are simply targetting the same body of buyers. By limiting their ability to sell this way, the company says it hopes to encourage its resellers to be more pro-active in attracting new customers to the Mac platform. That said, Apple US has probably played a part here. Of late, it has been pushing its UK offshoot to adopt a more high street retail-oriented channel strategy because retail outlets have led the success of the iMac. Arguably the UK market is less suited to such a role -- the small high street stores typically found here are very different from the CompUSA-style superstores that have driven iMac sales in the US. Still, if it persuades Mac dealers to focus on winning new business rather than chasing each others' diminishing customer lists, that can't be too bad. ®

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