Dell Expands Retail Presence to Japan

Dell Inc. is expanding its retail presence to Japan, where it will sell a variety of computers at Bic Camera stores.

Dell said Thursday it will sell XPS M1330, Inspiron 1520 and 6400 notebooks as well as the Inspiron 530s desktop at 22 stores beginning in early August.

The deal builds on a business relationship the two companies have had since 2000, when Dell began putting kiosks in Bic Camera stores and other retail outlets. At the kiosks, customers could order Dell products and have them shipped, but couldn't walk out with a computer.

It's a "great way for Dell to connect with customers we haven't necessarily reached in the past," said Chris Cowger, Dell Consumer vice president of business development, in a statement.

Until last year, Dell dominated the PC business by selling systems directly to consumers and businesses over the Internet or telephone, at a savings to customers.

But the Round Rock company has recently struggled against competitors like Hewlett-Packard Co. and others who offer systems at retail.

In the most recent analysis of global PC shipments by research companies IDC and Gartner Inc., HP kept its position as the world's largest maker of PCs and extended its lead over Dell.

IDC put HP's worldwide market share at 19.3 percent, while Gartner had it at 18.2 percent. The research companies put Dell at 15 percent and 16.1 percent, respectively.

Spokesman Bob Kaufman said Dell wasn't abandoning its direct-sales model. Rather, he said, the company was looking to reach even more customers who prefer retail over online or telephone ordering.

"An overwhelming majority of our customers prefer to buy direct," he said. "We're just adding another capability."

Last month, Dell began selling two models from its Dimension desktop computer line in about 3,000 Wal-Mart Stores Inc. locations. Last week, Dell struck a deal with Carphone Warehouse in the United Kingdom to give customers who sign up for two years of broadband service a free Dell laptop.

Samir Bhavnani, research director at Current Analysis West, said the moves show Dell realizes it needs to have a higher profile with consumers. Without retail, Bhavnani said, "You never got the instant gratification, and in this world that's really important."

Dell shares lost 49 cents, to $28.49, in Thursday trading.