Back in the old days pc makers were relying on retailers to sell their products (see exhibit 1). Dell, however, created a cost-efficient way to sell their pc's by bypassing retailers and distributors and offering their computers directly to customers (see exhibit 2). As a result Dell is able to lower its inventory costs and marketing costs by a significant amount and pass these cost savings on to their customers. Traditional pc makers assemble pc's using parts they have in stock. Hence they needed a warehouse with three to four months of pc parts inventory in the distribution channel. Dell on the otherhand is able to produce a pc only when a customer orders and pays in advance. Basically, these funds are used to buy the pc parts from its suppliers and in the end Dell is able to cut down on its financing costs and thus creating a negative cash conversion cycle. Due to fast technological developments in the pc market, the prices of computer parts erode at a fast pace. Therefore it is essential for a pc manufacturer to keep low volumes of inventory in stock over a long period of time. If someone would choose to buy a pc from either IBM, HP or another rival in a shop, it is likely that that computer parts have been in stock for some months. A pc from Dell will cost less because it was assembled from parts that were bought at their current market price. Because of their pile of stock many pc makers need to wait a couple of months to introduce new models. Dell on the other hand, can bring a new model on the market within some days by avoiding the lenghty retail channel - and will not be confronted with losses like its rivals as a result of obsolescence. Another key element of it's business model is the tailor made option they offer. Customers can configure their own pc and are therefore more than willing to choose a firm that offers them convenience and flexibility. In essence, customers no longer have to buy a one-size-fits-all pc at a retailer, but they can...
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