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Gateway opens direct channel

Gateway 2000, the nation's largest direct-seller of PCs, is dipping its toes into retail waters.

Gateway 2000, the nation's largest direct-seller of PCs, is dipping its toes into retail waters, the company announced today.

Gateway (GATE) will open two factory-direct showrooms in order to expand orders in the direct channel, the company said. The showrooms in New Haven, Connecticut, and Charlotte, North Carolina, will showcase the entire family of Gateway 2000 products but will not stock any inventory, according to company officials.

Jim Wharton, director of corporate communications, said "we want to have customers come in and see the entire product line. This is just an opportunity for us to give physical access to computers." In Europe, buyers seem to be more comfortable with seeing the product first, rather than buying it sight unseen over the phone. It's same in Japan, where the direct market is still maturing, he added.

The company already has similar outlets in London, Paris, Munich, Frankfurt, Amsterdam, and Tokyo, and is trying out the program in the United States to see if customers respond well to the offerings.

"Really, to us this is nothing more than a small pilot program that expands the direct channel. Systems are still going to be custom-configured for each customer. It's not a case of us building a huge inventory in these stores," Wharton said.

The company recently decided to market its large screen Destination computers through CompUSA and Nobody Beats the Wiz stores because it they are unique to the market. But Wharton said this doesn't mean that Gateway 2000 is going to compete with the electronics superstores.

"Don't read any change in our strategy into this at all. We are true and loyal to the direct model because that's best way to buy," Wharton said.