Hartco expands CompuSmart franchise

Four more independent computer retailers have joined CompuSmart’s growing empire, but the franchisor says the decisions had nothing to do with Best Buy Co.’s acquisition of Future Shop Ltd.

Montreal-based Hartco Corp. says with the addition of Neil The Computer Store, Zoez and Lowerys BASICS brings the number of stores under the CompuSmart umbrella to 22 with annual revenues of more than $225 million.

Hartco executive vice-president Jeffrey Hart says it typically attracts businesses that need marketing, advertising, business consulting and vendor support.

“If you’re in business as independent, we help improve your business,” Hart says.

“Once upon a time if you were an independent, vendors had more time and attention for you, but now unless you’re very large they don’t.”

The deals come as the expected closing date for Best Buy’s acquisition of Future Shop nears. The American computer-superstore company bought its Canadian counterpart in August for $580 million.

Hart says this had no influence whatsoever as talks had begun before the deal was announced, nor is he expecting a drastic reshaping of the retail landscape.

“I think there was more relief that Best Buy wasn’t coming on their own. It would have been tough with both players trying to kill each other,” says Hart. “I don’t think there was room for two players in Canada, and I think this was bound to happen. It just didn’t make sense to have (two).”

As for the Hewlett-Packard Co. and Compaq Computer Corp. merger, Hart says it’s far too early to predict what impact it will have. What he is certain of, however, is it will lose one of its main PC lines and there will be one less choice for consumers.

“I think that three was a good number — when it was IBM, Compaq and HP. I think when it was five and six a number of years ago it was too high. It might cause room for a new entrant,” Hart says.

The big winner in the end may be white box vendors. Hart says consumers want choices and he doesn’t expect the HP Compaq merger to be a case of simple math. “I don’t think the joint market share will equal one plus one equals two,” he says.

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