"Technology retailer HP Store has built a successful platform for growth in partnership with HP and Tarsus Distribution, propelling the company’s profitable evolution and enabling it to deliver an exceptional customer experience." Matthew Sledge, General Manager, HP Store South Africa
It was way back in 2003 that multinational IT company HP selected HP Store as a trusted retail partner, commissioning the business to create an ecommerce website that would grow HP’s direct-to-consumer brand. This was one of the first online technology stores in South Africa.
Five years later, HP approached HP Store once again, requesting that the team open a brick-and-mortar retail store in Johannesburg. Given the strength of HP’s brand reputation, both parties were convinced that the market would respond well.
HP Store opened what was then called HP Experience in Sandton City in 2008. Because it was the first HP retail store in the world there was much fanfare, including a visit from then brand ambassador Serena Williams.
In 2012, Matthew Sledge was appointed General Manager of HP Store South Africa, his chief responsibilities being to grow the business and take the company on a journey to be the best at what it does in the direct-to-consumer market.
“My aim was to enable consumers to experience the full range of innovative and stylish HP products both online and in malls around the country,” says Sledge. “But the big challenge was how to differentiate the brand in a crowded IT retail market. Premises are expensive, IT profit margins are low because products are commoditised, and consumers can buy computers and peripherals almost anywhere. How were we going to be different and why should anyone shop with us?”
How HP Store responded to the challenges
Today, HP Store has eight stores, located in Gauteng and KwaZulu Natal, and has proved to be a healthy, profitable and growing business.
Sledge attributes this success to customer experience – the one thing that can help drive performance and growth more than anything else because consumers expect more from brands than ever before.
The company’s vision is to create customers for life – people willing to hand HP Store their money to experience their product or service again and again.
Sledge says HP Store’s competitive differentiator has been purposely built on a genuine love for serving customers. “Our vision of customers for life is deeply entrenched in the business and is part of everything we do. That is a challenging vision when there are so many options in the tech world, and when you’re selling a product that people may only replace once every five years.”
HP Store identified four pillars to drive the vision of creating customers for life:
• Product – The company offers a broad range of products to meet all needs, from budget-friendly to high-end.
• Advice – Customers are advised on the right product for their needs, even if it is from a competitor, because that is how trust is created.
• Value – Laptops for learners come with more than R50 000 of vouchers and discounts for education online coursesthrough WeGrowSA, as well as a 3-month subscription to the South African masterclass platform Playbox.
• Support – No matter what the issue and when it happens, customers are encouraged to use our stores for support. We provide training, troubleshooting and facilitate repairs, warranties and care packs.
“None of what we promise and deliver would be possible without Tarsus Distribution,” Sledge says. “The company brings in HP stock, holds it for us and supplies our stores as needed. Along with HP, Tarsus Distribution is part of a triumvirate that has enabled us to develop a superior customer experience that keeps people coming back.”
This partnership between vendor, distributor and retailer is the foundation for a successful model for growth that will see HP Store fulfil its bold ambition to grow online sales and launch more stores in South Africa and across Africa over the next few years.