Acer, the second-largest computer maker in the world, is launching an unusual retail presence to take advantage of a 7 per cent increase in sales last year in the UAE that bucked a downturn in the regional market. The "experience" stores will not sell goods but display the company's products in a showroom-type setting that has proved popular in Europe and India.
"It's like going online to our website," said Krishna Murthy, the regional marketing director for Acer in the Middle East and Africa. "Customers can get a feeling of what they are going to get, see what the price is and then go to another shop and negotiate with them there." The Taiwanese company is primarily known as a maker of desktop and laptop computers but has expanded its portfolio to offer servers, storage devices, mobile handsets and, recently, tablet computers.
The company recently posted its strongest profit growth in nine quarters after overtaking Hewlett-Packard globally and beating its own forecast to take top spot in the laptop market. Acer's presence in the Middle East has grown over the past several years, Mr Murthy said. The company invested in an assembly plant in Jebel Ali in 1997 and has consistently seen its revenue grow annually since then, he said. Last year, a rise in spending on laptop computers improved Acer's revenue by 7 per cent in a market in which sales of consumer electronic devices was down by 20 per cent.
"The Middle East is a very potent market," Mr Murthy said. "The purchasing power in this region is much higher than other regions These are oil and gas-based economies. The governments that get revenues from that sector are reinvesting into infrastructure." Acer plans to open at least one "experience" retail store in the UAE by the end of the year, Mr Murthy said. The company's expansion efforts come at an opportune time.
The UAE is forecast to spend almost US$5 billion (Dh18.36bn) on technology this year, according to the market research company IDC. Companies in the Middle East and Africa are expected to spend $49.77bn this year, with the Gulf region expected to account for about 25 per cent of the total. To meet growing demand in the region, Acer plans to introduce four brands - Acer, Packard-Bell, eMachines and Gateway - to suit various consumer and business needs.
"There's a lot of economic activities happening here and there's a large technology requirement to meet that," Mr Murthy said. "This region is going to grow, which is why we keep investing in our own infrastructure." @Email:firstname.lastname@example.org