Toshiba Announces E-commerce Plan

In early June, Toshiba will institute a new retailing program that embraces the Internet but favors traditional retailers. The electronics manufacturing giant will have "a defined group of Internet retailers" that will be built on a base of traditional retailers, according to an announcement made in late April. Later, the program will be expanded in stages to include Internet-only retailers. The announcement follows an announcement by Sony Corp. late in January that Sony would begin direct Internet sales this year.

Toshiba plans to keep strict controls over who can and who cannot sell its products over the Net, with favor shown toward traditional retailers. "The Internet-only retailers may not like it, because we are going to be the ones managing the business," said Rick Calacci, v.p. of field sales for Toshiba America Consumer Products (TACP). Toshiba distributors will not be allowed to sell to non-approved e-commerce outlets, at the risk of losing their franchises. For the past year, some Toshiba products have been widely advertised at deep discounts on the Internet, to the dismay of authorized dealers.

Under the new program, authorized dealers of all kinds will have an official logo to display at their stores and on their websites. "This e-commerce agreement will probably be accepted by the bricks-and-mortar people with open arms," Callaci said. Toshiba's home site will be an information center for consumers.

TACP hit over $1 billion in sales in 1999 for the first time, according to Callaci. Sales executive Scott Ramirez mentioned that 2000 will be an important year in the company's history: the year in which sales of digital electronics finally outsell analog. Toshiba intends to serve all parts of the consumer market, according to Ramirez, from entry-level to high-end.