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Published 03 December 2012 06:02, Updated 06 December 2012 05:26
Vita Group joint CEO Maxine Horn says Next Byte traditionally did about 3000 repairs a month in-house at its service centre in Albion, Brisbane, bringing success because business, government and education clients can’t waste time trying to book appointments at the Apple Genius Bar. Photo: Glenn Hunt
If you had a crystal ball in 1995, you might have bought shares in Apple – or perhaps founded a company like Next Byte to specialise in selling Apple products.
The extraordinary explosion in the popularity of the Apple brand and the success of products such as the iPod, iPhone and iPad has proven a boon to Next Byte. The company, which is now a national chain, was bought by Vita Group in 2007, which then floated on the Australian Stock Exchange in 2008.
The joint chief executive of Vita Group, Maxine Horn, says the growth, even since 2007, has exceeded expectations. “We didn’t imagine it would be as big as what it is now,” Horn says. “We’re still surprised every day.”
Now for the first time, Next Byte is outsourcing the service side of its business, recently signing a five-year agreement worth up to $10 million with Unisys.
Horn says Next Byte traditionally did about 3000 repairs a month in-house at its service centre in Albion, Brisbane. This was part of the secret to the retailer’s success, especially for business, government and education clients that can’t waste time trying to book appointments at the Apple Genius Bar.
“We guarantee that we’ll repair it in four days or it’s free and that’s a really strong offering for our customers,” she says. “That was fine when we had stores in metro locations but the growth plan for our business is to fill in the geographical footprint for Apple – the last stores we’ve opened have been in regional centres like Cairns, Rockhampton and Mackay – and we could foresee it becoming a problem as we expand.”
Next Byte has 19 stores, including Sydney, Brisbane, Melbourne, Perth and Adelaide but the last eight stores have been in regional areas. Another eight stores are planned by the end of 2013, all wholly owned by Next Byte.
Horn says Unisys beat a number of competitors and it was “an easy choice in the end” because it could meet all the service-level agreements they required. The deal includes break-fix hardware support, parts management, logistics product support, call centre and implementation services.
The outsourcing agreement means some job losses, though Horn says most staff were either redeployed within Next Byte or offered a transfer to Unisys. She says the expansion in the retail chain will mean a net increase of jobs, from 250 staff now to about 300 by the end of next year.