Are Dell's Retail Efforts A Bust?

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Dell (DELL) gave the market some bad news this week. A number of its new PCs are shipping late during the critical "back to school" period because of problems with paint and late components.

But, that may be the least of Dell’s problems. According to work done by TheStreet.com, Dell may not be doing very well at Wal-Mart (WMT), its big beach head in the retail market. The site reports that "in recent visits to five Wal-Mart stores in the San Francisco Bay Area, however, TheStreet.com found a company still struggling to find its footing in the rough world of retail."

It is not a big sample, but it is an informed one. At least one analyst on Wall St. has similar concerns: "I would say Dell is probably two years behind the competition in terms of understanding the consumer marketplace. So there’s a lot of learning that has to go on," says Samir Bhavnani, analyst at market research firm Current Analysis West.

If the retail problems combined with late shipments of key models are going to show up on the P&L, it will be in the current quarter. And, it will make an inauspicious beginning to Michael Dell’s second go round as CEO.

Douglas A. McIntyre