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Dell Shutters Mall Kiosks In U.S.

Faced with lagging sales, the company last year moved quickly to add retailers as an option for people considering a Dell system.

With its focus on getting consumer computers in retail stores, Dell on Wednesday said it would close its mall kiosks in the United States.

Dell launched the kiosks in 2002 in order to give people the chance to touch products before purchasing them direct from the company. Faced with lagging sales, the company last year moved quickly to add retailers as an option for people considering a Dell system. The company continues to also sell directly.

Dell said it would close its 140 U.S. kiosks, but facilities outside the country would remain open. "This move fits in with how our broad global retail strategy is evolving," Tony Weiss, VP of Dell's global consumer business, said in a brief statement announcing the closures.

Dell computers are available today in more than 10,000 stores worldwide, according to the company. Retailers include Best Buy, Staples, and Wal-Mart in the United States; DSG International, Carrefour and Tesco in Europe; Courts in Singapore; Gome in China; Bic Camera in Japan; and Carphone Warehouse in the United Kingdom. Wal-Mart is also selling Dell computers in Canada, Brazil, and Mexico.

A majority of customers still choose to buy laptops, desktops and other products directly from Dell, via phone or the Internet. The company, however, decided to seek partnerships with retailers after watching Hewlett-Packard grab market share for more than a year to eventually surpass Dell as the world's largest computer maker.

Among consumers, HP's strength has been in selling through retailers, as well as direct, eye-catching machines with lots of horsepower for entertainment applications. In trying to gain share in the consumer market, Dell has recently shipped its own brand of high-end entertainment PCs.

As computers take on a bigger role beyond business in people's lives, the market has grown, and manufacturers have had to turn to design to catch consumers' attention, while also making sure the machines have the capabilities people want.

The importance of how a computer looks has made retail stores more important than ever for Dell and other manufacturers. People want to see the computer, touch it, and operate it next to other machines.

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