Time Computers calls £40m pitch

LONDON - Carat UK has cut its links with Tiny Computers after the struggling retailer was dramatically snapped up by the rival company Time Computers yesterday afternoon.

The move leaves the combined media accounts of Tiny and Time up for grabs after a spokesman said that a shoe-in to Time's incumbent, CIA Manchester, was not guaranteed. The two rivals matched each other almost pound for pound in UK media spend last year, racking up a combined total of £40 million in billings, although this will decline as Time looks for efficiencies

after the purchase. Marketing will be consolidated at Time's headquarters in Burnley.

"It's very much early days and we'll have to look at everything afresh, which we do from time to time anyway," Brian Trevaskiss, Time Group's marketing manager, said. "We've got two fantastic brands to work with and a new retail brand to launch so there's work to be done."

Time yesterday announced plans to roll out a new retail operation, housing both Time and Tiny, over the next six months. The scheme calls for 150 outlets to be rebranded as The Computer Store by June this year. Trevaskiss would not rule out a creative review ahead of the rollout. Tiny's account is held by Golley Slater, while Time split with its own advertising agency, HHCL & Partners, a year ago and handles creative in-house.

"We'll discuss it on its merits and then see whether we continue or review it," said Trevaskiss of Golley Slater's account.

Carat's relationship with Tiny was effectively suspended last week, with the agency ceasing to buy space after Tiny's credit insurance notice was suddenly withdrawn. The agency finally split with the retailer as the joint administrators of Grant Thornton stepped in. Time then made its move to acquire its former rival. The MediaVest North's division, Mediavision, was drafted in to buy press for Tiny during the last few days.

"While it is regretted that any company has to enter

administration, the level of losses at Tiny meant that this was inevitable and the directors felt they needed to seek the protection of the Court," Martin Ellis, a partner in Grant Thornton, said.

The Computer World will contain separate showrooms for Time and Tiny PCs and the pair will continue to trade as independent PC companies with direct, corporate, retail and web operations.

"The marketing and product development for Time and Tiny will remain separate and we hope to retain and grow the PC market share for each company," the Time Group marketing director, Dr Tariq Mohammed, said.

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