I wrote an article last year predicting that more and more manufacturers were going to begin to sell direct in response to a few different converging trends, mainly pointed on the fact that information is so accessible that the idea of a middleman is becoming extinct.
Retail is an outdated concept. The old model of a merchant buying products from a manufacturer at a lower price than a consumer and then selling those products at a mark-up is becoming extinct. (especially in this economy, see CompUSA, Circuit City) More and more retailers are having to differentiate their offerings through a blend of experience and services.
This week, Microsoft confirmed rumors that they were going to start opening up direct retail brick & mortar stores. While many manufacturers have been selling direct online for years, they’ve been hesitant as they’re essentially competing with their channel partners. I imagine we’ll see manufacturers worry less and less about this as time goes on. It doesn’t mean all retail is dead, it just means that the old notion of what a retailer is defined as, is going to change.
Take Apple for example. While they’re a manufacturer who sells direct, they still sell 3rd party manufacturer’s software and accessories. Microsoft will probably do the same, so it’s interesting to see top manufacturers who will probably become huge channel retailers as well.