Sales of 3Com's new Palm VII, the company's first wireless organizer, are doing so well in the New York test market that retailers around the country are anxiously awaiting the Palm VII's national launch later this year.
Retailers said Palm Computing, a 3Com company, shipped 5,000 to 7,000 of the long-awaited Palm VII organizers - which debuted May 24 - to select retailers in the New York metro area. Approved retailers for the Palm VII include Circuit City, CompUSA, DataVision, J&R Computer World, Office Depot, OfficeMax, RCS, Sharper Image and Staples.
New York-based DataVision sold 150 units in two weeks. J&R Computer World executives said the Palm VII was selling "extremely well" and the store whizzed through its first shipment.
A sales associate at a midtown Manhattan Staples said the store sold 10 units per week and customers "are crazy about it."
3com declined to comment on sales.
The Palm VII is similar to the Palm III pen-based organizer, but adds two-way communication and Internet access through the BellSouth Wireless Data Network - which gives the Palm VII nationwide Internet access even though the test market is restricted to the New York area.
Fae Simmons, marketing manager for online retailer Mobile Planet's, Canoga Park, Calif., said the confined launch may prove to be a blessing for retailers located outside New York because there are often glitches in a wireless launch. "You have to launch it like this because it's the nature of being wireless," Simmons maintained. "The whole industry is very disjointed. We'll wait until the product has all the bugs out."
While some retailers said they were eagerly anticipating the product, most said the current Palm V organizer was selling so well that supplies for that unit were tight. In fact, overall organizer sales are going so well that both brick-and-mortar and online retailers are expanding their presence in handheld devices.
Paul Ewart, president of the technology division of Value America, said, "The handheld category has become the poster child for the Internet." Value America, said Ewart, will "start stressing it. We strongly believe that the handheld category will be one of the winners for the next couple of years."
Nebraska Furniture Mart, Omaha, Neb., bumped up the exposure it gives the category in March with a new display, increased floor space, and the addition of software.
Communications and home office buyer Bob Kassow said Nebraska Furniture Mart now stocks 42 SKUs, including smaller non-PDA organizers, and sales compared to last year saw double-digit increases. Strong sellers include the Palm V, color Palm PCs, and such portable e-mail organizers as Sharp's TelMail and JVC's PocketMail.
At Mobile Planet color palm-size PCs are the "hot ticket" according to Simmons, who estimates handhelds are approximately 30% of the company's business and expected to increase.