The Time/Tiny concession battle

Powerhouse doesn't know whom to sleep with

In what is will inevitably be marketed by both sides as a victory, competing computer retailers Time and Tiny have announced major plans for their retail operations.

It looks as though Time is leaving home appliance chain Powerhouse, where it runs concessions in 60 branches, and we suspect Tiny is moving into some of them.

Time has stepped forward to announce a bold foray into new retail territories. It says it will relocate a high percentage of its 150 stores into premier, high street, retail locations and revamp them from PC showrooms into fully stocked IT retail stores. This process will begin immediately and will take around 18 months to conclude.

Of these 150 stores, most of which it says currently lie in out of town locations. Maybe it means the 60 Powerhouse concessions are out of town as we thought it specialised in off high street locations in smaller towns.

A channel source tells us that the Time plans to terminate its contract with the chain, adding that sales in these stores for PCs were sitting at about a quarter of its standalone stores, and one tenth of the business for consummables and peripherals.

On the other side of the ring, Tiny has just announced a press briefing on Tuesday where it will detail plans for a "major retail expansion expected to add over £100 million to annual turnover and create at least 450 new jobs," according to the press invitation.

We think there is a very good possibility that Tiny will announce plans to move into the Powerhouse chain that Time is in the process of retreating from.

The link here is ScottishPower, another domestic appliance retailer. Last November, Tiny announced a partnership with ScottishPower, opening a series of concession stores within it. Tiny's marketing director at the time said that moving "from the high street into retail parks will ensure that we further expand our business".

Then, in June of this year, Powerhouse announced that it would buy around 100 of ScottishPower's stores and take on over half of its retail staff.

The situation is effectively this: ScottishPower is in bed with Tiny. Powerhouse, sleeping with Time, then gobbles up ScottishPower. Being a monogamous type, it prefers a single partner and so a shake-up is inevitable. The main questions are: Is Time leaving, or is it being asked to leave? And will Tiny now be snuggling under the duvet with Powerhouse?

Time will not confirm the rumour that it is moving (or being removed) out of Powerhouse, only stating that it has 150 stores now and will have 150 stores in the future. Of these, it reiterates, a high percentage will be relocated to new, premier retail locations.

Tiny refused to confirm or deny the rumours, saying that all would be revealed on Tuesday.

Of course, it was only back in the middle of August that Tiny announced plans to launch a series of new-look high street showrooms, which it said would enable it to go head to head with rivals like Dixons.

The saga continues next week. ®

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