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Packard Bell retail passes Compaq

Packard Bell earns 31 percent of the retail market in October, while Compaq drops to 29 percent from 33 percent, according to one market research firm.

Packard Bell NEC inched ahead of rival Compaq Computer in U.S. retail computer sales for October, according to a survey by Audits & Surveys Worldwide.

But other industry analysts questioned the results.

Packard Bell's share of October's retail sales was 31 percent, according to ASW, PC retail sales market share up from 30 percent in September and 25 percent in August. Compaq's October share was 29 percent, down from 33 percent in September and 36 percent in August.

Further, Packard Bell NEC has captured 30 percent of the 1997 retail PC market through October, ahead of Compaq's 25 percent, according to the survey. Toshiba and Hewlett-Packard scored 9 and 8 percent of the market, respectively.

ASW attributed Packard Bell NEC's resurgence to what it described as the company's belated entry into the sub-$1,000 computer market. Compaq's March entry into that market propelled it past Packard Bell NEC this past summer.

"Packard Bell NEC didn't jump into the sub-$1,000 market immediately, and that was probably a big reason they fell behind," said ASW executive vice president Carl Ravitch. "Compaq moved in so fast and just started taking share, and it took time to react."

Packard Bell NEC, however, noted that its January entry into the sub-$1000 market placed it there ahead of Compaq.

Regardless of which computer maker was first, Compaq has been the clear winner in the sub-$1,000 space, ultimately gaining more than half of the market, according to Computer Intelligence analyst Matt Sargent.

Contrary to the ASW survey, CI has also reported that Compaq remains ahead of Packard Bell NEC in overall retail sales. Compaq's share of domestic retail PC sales was 35.7 percent for October and 29.7 percent for the year through October, according to CI, while Packard Bell NEC had 25.5 percent for October and 23.3 for the first ten months of the year.

Packard Bell attributed the surge ASW reported to the U.S. PC retail sales market share quality and value of its products and what it called "outstanding customer service."

Packard Bell ranked 11th in an October Home PC survey of customer service satisfaction, ahead of Compaq, which ranked last. (See related story)

In the ASW survey, the third- and fourth-place market shares of Hewlett-Packard and Toshiba remained essentially unchanged at about 10 and 6 percent, respectively, from August through October.

ASW reported retail sales, as distinguished from home, corporate, or direct sales. The retail channel is composed primarily of home computers, but it has a small quantity of corporate sales as well. Computer Intelligence limited its research to computer superstores, office superstores, and computer electronics stores, which may account for some of the disparity between its figures and ASW's.