In some ways, retailers and value-added distributors, or job shops, are polar opposites. Retailers don’t modify products; VARs do. Here are a few other things you can expect from these channels:
Retailers: Retailers are the storefronts of the industry and target consumers. Retailers should have your products in-stock and market them aggressively through sales, ads and other promotions. Purchases are usually in small volumes. Salespeople are usually trained to add onto a purchase—suggest a printer to go along with that PC—rather than become product experts. Many augment their stores with online catalogs that carry a wider variety of products than stores. The upside: most retailers are national or even international chains. The downside: retailers like to turn their inventory over quickly.
VARs: Value-added resellers or job shops will modify your product for customers. Most will have an in-depth knowledge of your product and know other products that are compatible. In the example above, a VAR would connect the printer and PC; download software; install the system and provide post-sales support. VARs stock products and may sell in small or mid-size volumes. The upside: your product will get a lot of focus. The downside: you’ll have to train your VAR and in some cases, qualify or certify them to perform installation and other services.