The New Dick Smith: Not For Cheapskates?

If you can't beat 'em, run in the opposite direction -- this appears to be Dick Smith's response to cheap online shopping, with the company pledging to renew its focus on premium, high-end brands for tech enthusiasts who have fatter wallets. So are these the end times for brick-and-mortar retailers? Or is ol' Dick actually onto something?

Last night, Dick Smith Electronics held a media briefing at its new flagship Sydney store where freshly-minted CEO Nick Abboud outlined the company's strategy moving forward. For those who aren't aware, Dick Smith recently changed hands and is now owned by private investor firm Anchorage Capital Partners and Mangement.

"Retail is simple but it sometimes gets over complicated with management," Abboud explained to attendees. "So we're trying to really simplify the electronics category [by] working hard with vendors to be more profitable as an organisation. We're going to be very strategic about who our partners will be."

With an eye on serious tech hobbyists, the new-look Dick Smith is promising to offer the best gadgets money can buy in the key areas of computing, mobility and "fashionable" accessories. Best-selling brands such as Samsung, Apple and Sony will have their own branded sections manned by specialist staff in many stores.

“We’re going to stay very focused on what’s important to our core customer and we’ll continue to target them with our famous categories,” Abboud said.

Pictured: Dick Smith's new flagship store in Westfield Shopping Centre, Sydney CBD

The company is also expanding its footprint: around 40 new stores are currently in the works which will chiefly appear in "high traffic" areas like shopping food courts. Presumably, the idea here is to capitalise on passers-by, although we feel it's worth noting that these people tend to be impulse buyers and window shoppers -- not exactly the type of consumer that Dick Smith claims to be courting.

We asked Abboud about this and he said that a large accessories range would be a prime driver to get people inside stores; particularly cartridges and batteries which are basically the Dick Smith equivalent to JB HiFi's DVDs and BluRays.

These days, you can't have a retail strategy without an online component -- thankfully, Dick Smith is looking to strengthen its omni-channel with an improved "click-and-collect" system that should help to ensure customers don't leave the store empty-handed.

"If you live in Kalgoorlie or Cairns, we've got stores in those locations so we don't have to freight from a central location like a lot of other retailers. We will also be able to deliver within the same day to that customer."

In a reluctant concession to bargain-hunters, Dick Smith will continue to stock cheaper brands including Tandy -- but this will not be a primarily focus, with Abboud admitting the company "probably won't make much money from it".

"...But if we can get a customer [into the store], they might be tempted towards better invested areas, such as an Apple Macbook," Abboud ruminated.

Personally, we think this concentrated focus is a good move on Dick Smith's part -- at least on paper. In the end, it will mainly come down to staff knowledge/training and how affordable the prices are. Let us know what you think of the new Dick Smith in the comments section below.


Comments

    Sounds like they'll be leaving Jaycar to cater for tech-heads, and going head-to-head with with the Myer tech store.

      Bit much like they're doing now -- all the old-school dick smiths I used to go to for odd-bits have dropped anything electrical except for power boards.

      Jaycar is OK if you're looking for obscure widgets and plugs etc but their electronic gear sucks balls. I stopped buying thee stuff because of that and the fact that their widgets and plugs are also quite exy. You can get better gear delivered to your door from eBay/Gumtree and still save money.

      Last edited 01/08/13 11:43 am

        Yeah me too. Jaycar is only a 'need it now' store for me... you can always get something cheaper and better quality online.

        On the flip side though, it would be a shame in one of those 'need it now' situations happened and I DIDN'T have a Jaycar nearby, so I dont mind paying a little extra.

      Fun fact, Nick Abboud was formerly of Myer Operations

    Thing is, nerds like us know a lot about tech products already so retail-grade expertise just isn't going to cut it. It would be better to target tech novices who would actually gain something from expert advice and introduce them to "this is the future" moments.

    For example my Mum was really quite excited when she discovered that thanks to the way HDMI works, she could control her TV and BRD with the one remote without having to do anything

    Dick smith is generally a heap of cheap "DSE" branded crap surrounded by overpriced brand name stuff you can get cheaper at JB Hi Fi.

    When will these companies learn that the tech customers they are targeting know more than them.

    Having worked in sales I can vouch there is zero training provided bar sales reps and your told to go out and sell.

    this will fail imho. Cheaper alternatives exist in the market.

      Yep, In my experience the Dick Smith sales guys can't even answer basic questions on an item's specs like 'how many hdmi ports does it have', let alone anything vaguely technical. My usual request is 'can I see the manual' the usual answer which involves the sales guy disappearing into the storeroom for 5 minutes, usually to come back and say 'I can't find it'. How about KEEPING THE BLOODY MANUALS near the stock on display? I've lost count of the number of times I've gone with my wallet ready to spring open and ended up walking out, I actually don't know why I bother with DSE anymore. Are you reading these comments Abboud???

        I was at a dick smiths just recently and the lady in front of me was asking the sales guy about a card reader adaptor for an android tablet that she;d purchased and that it wasn't working.

        Both the customer and sales guy got a crash course in why and NTFS formatted drive won't work on anything but a windows machine, and that FAT32 has an upper limit on file size that is super annoying.

        The sales guy even thanked me and said "just as well you were here cos I had no clue"

        ....Turn the TV around and have a look, you twit. Why would you want to see the manual? All the important features are written over it in clear marketing stickers. Judge the panel on it's quality and buy it.

        Stupid request by a stupid customer.

    It's been a long time since I bought anything at a Dick Smiths. This is partly because they don't have any shops that are invitingly close, but mainly because these days they sell pretty much the same stuff that everybody else sells, but charge more for it. I can't think of a single item I would buy where a Dick Smiths store would be my first port of call.

    Over the years DSE have moved down in the tech spectrum (selling less esoteric gear) while everybody else has move up in the same spectrum (selling more esoteric gear). The result is that there's very little you can buy at a DSE that you can't buy somewhere else, usually more cheaply, so there's no reason to actually go into a Dick Smiths store.

    It's a pity what has been done with a once great brand name. I wonder what Dick Smith himself thinks of all this?

      He thinks the stores should of been closed years ago with a distribution centre in Asia selling the products online.

    In the "good old days" (over 30 years ago) I remember trying to buy: resistors. You could get then from Tandy (Radio Shack) in packets of 6, in a pretty piece of cardboard, for about $2. Or, you could got to Dick Smith and buy them for 2c each. Pick up a few transistors, LEDs and maybe even an IC while you're there. Oh, and there's the PCB etching kit.
    Fast-forward: today, most hobbyists aren't building the same way. Design, etch and solder seem on the wane. Instead, pre-made modules (Arduino) are put together and the software is where hobbyists put their personal stamp.
    Dick Smith doesn't really cater to the old fogeys like me any more. Trouble is, I don't think they cater to the new generation either. A massive influx of Raspberry Pi / Beaglebone / Arduino boards and accessories is significantly absent.

    Last month, I got a $109 Seagate 3TB drive from Dick Smiths online. Last week I got a 8.9 Kindle Fire for $229. Both of these are insanely low prices.

    I shop at Altronics for my electronics gear. Yeah you can get it online cheaper, you always will be able to, but they're an Aussie company so I'd rather get it from them. Plus Im usually a 'need it now person'.

      I agree they well priced with very knowledgeable staff and if you issue with product they have technical staff to sort it out.

    On the plus side, Dick Smiths do tend to be well priced - or rather their sales are.

    On the downside, the staff have really poor product knowledge, but no worse than say Officeworks.

    But they also do some really hopeless things frequently.

    Items on the shelves aren't actually in stock.

    Items on their website aren't in stock.

    They don't respond to customers when orders go bad.

    They're really badly organised. They'll only get better if they have a radical overhaul. Which won't happen. They'll blunder on for a couple more decades.

    I recently got made redundant by DSE (as have a lot of people). The biggest problem I forsee is that they've severely cut back staff across all their stores (the one I used to work in now runs with 2 people), and people simply won't be served, or at least given the time they require.

    As stated, the average staff knowledge is poor at best (I was basically the go to guy for...everything... for most of the nearby stores) and the management doesn't care. Their focus going forward is purely on sales culture about upselling and adding on as much as possible, whereas it used to be genuinely about product knowledge and customer service.

    On the plus side, as noted, DS SALE prices are generally very competitive even with online when you factor in Warranty, Shipping and somewhere you can genuinely take it if it breaks. Their normal prices are average at best, and cables are excessively overpriced.

    As a side note, Tandy hasn't existed for years, nor has DS sold any componentry/other Jaycar products for years.

      I used to work at two of the last Tandy's in Australia, that closed in 2010 and 2011 respectively. Luckily I quit before Woolworths went and sold the DSE brand. Only a couple of the guys there, myself included, actually knew anything about what we were selling. And we were smart enough to not stay there too long; I only lasted about 4 years and it was the last retail job I ever had.

    dick smith is a rort. i remember once i was planning to buy a tv, and i asked how much a hdmi cable would be. originally the price was 55 dollars. i managed to bargain it down 8 dollars. I ended up taking my business elsewhere.
    Honestly. what kind of profit margin is from 8 to 55 bucks?!

    My experience with DSE online has been very frustrating. The order was not delivered, how do you prove a non-delivery? so DSE Online made the problem mine. So I am out of pocket and after hours on the phone to the online sales staff, no satisfaction. Warning to all.

Join the discussion!