Compaq Europe Launches PC Sales on the Internet

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MUNICH, Germany - Compaq Computer Corp. launched online sales of PCs in France and the UK late last month and plans to roll out in the rest of Western Europe between September and early next year.

"The reason we're starting in France and the UK first is because that's where we've had fully functioning call centers for a year," said Werner Koepf, Compaq's general manager for Europe, the Middle East and Africa.

"In the other countries we've only had call centers for a few months and that's why we'll start Web-based PC sales later. We only signed up a call center in Germany at the end of June and won't start here till the first quarter of 2000."

Sales will begin in Spain in September, Koepf said, not so much because the Net is well developed in Spain but because of rising interest and good call center facilities.

Sweden, Finland and other Scandinavian countries are next with the Benelux countries will follow soon after.

Although Compaq has not sold PCs on the Web in Europe before, it sells $1 to $2 million worth of spare parts and other peripherals a day online.

What's more, Koepf noted, "we deliver the backbone for many companies on the Internet. Microsoft's entire Internet service runs on Compaq hardware, and so does AOL's."

Nor is Compaq limiting its business to the Web. "We're not Dell but we have had customer choice for a year with the customer deciding how he wants to buy from us - direct, through distributors or via resellers."

This fall, Compaq will start a program allowing resellers to pass orders to Compaq for direct shipment to customers. Resellers would receive an agent commission.

He declined to predict Web sales, saying "The Internet surprises us all. Everything happens much faster than we think it will."

He cited Compaq sales in Germany which grew at a record rate in the second quarter without the Internet. Turmoil in Compaq's US HQ did not affect sales.

"In the final analysis, many companies have management changes that do not affect sales. Customers buy in-country and the relationships you have with them are not affected."

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