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Ideal Hardware is to launch a new range of financial services, including PC rental and leasing, it said today. The distributor will offer a host of value-added services, such as software licensing, specialised training and advanced technical support. It will also offer marketing services, including advertising and PR for resellers or suppliers, as well as human resources offerings such as staff recruitment. And there are plans for a fresh level of logistics support, including storage, delivery and warranty performance, the company announced this morning. Ideal said it will use a combination of in-house skills and outsourcing, to provide the new services. There may even be acquisitions to plug any gaps. Although it will keep the main thrust of its business in distribution, it said resellers and suppliers alike were asking for a wider variety of services. Ian French, Ideal Hardware CEO, said the distribution market was shrinking, predicting that there would be fewer players in the market in a year's time. He said distributors would have to adapt to market trends if they wanted to survive. "We have listened to suppliers and resellers and our conclusion is that the days of the multi-layered supply chain are numbered," said French. "With our new innovative services, we will be offering greater choice, flexibility and value, aiming to be an essential part of our partners' long-term business." French also hinted at an upcoming storage deal. He said storage still played a major part for the distributor, and was the second fastest growing part of the company, second only to its Compaq business. French said Ideal had been Compaq's number one distributor for eight out of the last ten weeks. Tim Wickes, who joined Ideal Hardware as its marketing director this month, said the whole scheme of services would be up and running within the next six months. The leasing and rental businesses will start before Christmas. The changes to Ideal's business follow a profit warning in June, when the distributor announced it was: "embarking upon a significant restructuring of Ideal in order to produce immediate material reductions in its cost base and improved efficiency of its sales teams." At the time, it described trading as "extremely disappointing" due to margin erosion. Ideal's parent company, InterX is to announce its year-end results on Monday. ®

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