Buoyant demand but limited availability has been the story of 2003 for UK resellers.

The biggest headache for resellers has been iPod shortages. One reseller even claimed to have been reduced to buying via mail-order and from John Lewis to meet demand for iPods.

But resellers were better prepared for the Christmas rush – wisely stocking up on iPods – this year's must-have gadget.

The launch of the G5 also caused problems. "The world's fastest personal computer" received an excellent reception, but resellers spent weeks awaiting delivery.

The last week of September saw the delayed 2GHz G5s finally begin to arrive in the channel, after resellers had been given a total of eight expectation dates for the dual-processor model.

One disgruntled customer at the time said: "The mismanagement of the G5's release is the grossest incompetence I have ever seen. I wonder if Apple even has a department or at least one person in charge of logistics."

The year also saw resellers grow increasingly disgruntled with the relentless product expansion and aggressive pricing of the Apple Store, with many hinting that Apple was pricing them out of the equation, as well as giving itself preferential treatment regarding stock availability.

One reseller, who wished to remain unnamed, said: "Apple must treat resellers with more respect if it wants to increase market share.”

But for every negative, the year held many positives. Most recently MacExpo exceeded the expectations of resellers, many of whom were so impressed they have already signed up for next year’s show.

Jonathan Cole of Computer Warehouse said: "This year has been much better than last year – we've made thousands of sales and there has been a consistent interest in Apple."

The show also saw successful product launches from Computer Warehouse and Compu b, and the launch of Velocity, a new company focusing on the expanding digital-video and -audio market.

Velocity managing director Jeanne Razzell said: "We have seen very good lead generation here at the Expo. That proves that this is the right time to launch our new venture."

MacExpo 2003 also saw the launch of the UK Mac Dealer Association (UK MDA) - a national network of independent Apple resellers, support companies, and consultants.

The association provides a range of information services for both Apple buyers and resellers via its Web site. From January 2004 an apple reseller directory, dealer offers; a guide to special purchases, and a product finder service, will be available on the site.

Panther Party Time The launch of Panther on October 24 was a great opportunity to celebrate and special events were scheduled to mark the launch.

Square Group had a snaking queue of Panther-hungry punters waiting outside at 8pm when the doors opened – and sold 75 copies of Panther that night. The scene was repeated at similar late-night and weekend openings with excited Mac fans besieging Mac resellers nationwide.

KRCS marketing manager Keren Gilfoyle-McGroarty said: "On Saturday it was completely mad in our Nottingham branch, and our other two branches were even busier. We sold so many more copies than we anticipated that we only have 15 copies left from our allocation."

Apple UK initiated a number of strategies to increase the profile of its registered Apple Centres. In one such scheme Apple UK is offering a Mac "buy now pay later" finance deal to prospective customers through Apple Authorized Resellers including Albion Computers, AT Computers, Gordon Harwood, and Square Group.

One reseller said: "The finance scheme is a great idea, but it would be even better if we had the kit to sell people in the first place."

Doors open and close The year also saw a number of resellers close down following a difficult summer. MicroWarehouse, parent company of MacWarehouse, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in the US in September, and the recent liquidation of the Reading Apple Centre, also known as Creative Graphics, shocked many.

A source close to the company said: "It's a shame, really. The market has changed, and it looks like Creative Graphics couldn't keep up. It is a pity, as business in the UK is currently really good. We are taking a lot of orders."

Resellers are hopeful that 2004 may see positive changes to the way Apple deals with the channel. In November Apple's executive VP of worldwide sales and operations, Tim Cook, announced that Apple had "fundamentally" changed its sales process, the way it deals with both the channel, and how it delivers products to market.

Cook told analysts: "The channel remains very important to us. Apple and the channel can win by leveraging each other's strengths.

Many resellers are looking forward to 2004, and expectations are high, especially since Apple will celebrate the 20th anniversary of the Mac.