Are mobile phones the next battlefield for retailers?

DSGi, Asda and Tesco have all been making noises about their mobile network propositions recently. Is the field of telecoms the next big battleground for these retailers?

Rosie Baker
Rosie Baker

DSGi, soon to be Dixons once again, is rolling out its pilot scheme with Phones4u to over 50 stores to give its customers access to “excellent value, choice and customer service” in the mobile phone sector within its electricals stores.

It’s no stretch of the imagination Best Buy’s relationship with Carphone Warehouse is the motivation on both sides of the arrangement. Carphone Warehouse is 50% owned by Best Buy in the UK.

Asda has also said that it plans to roll out phone concessions in its stores under the Asda Phone Shop fascia.

The supermarket is aiming for 150 mobile concessions within the next 2 years, if the proposition is successful and goes down well with its shoppers.

Asda’s vision is that, as well as Asda Mobile, its own pre-pay tariff, the concessions will also offer Asda shoppers the choice of snapping up mobile phone tariffs from the major network providers when they do their weekly shop.

An Asda spokesperson told me that the in-store phone shops would appeal to Asda shoppers who might be unnerved by specialist mobile retailers and that the Asda Phone Shops would provide an “inclusive environment” for shoppers to sort our their mobile phone contracts in Asda stores where they already feel comfortable.

The Asda operation is being run by Shebang, the company that were behind Tesco Mobile’s retail operations, and will have fully trained mobile specialist staff.

Seems like common sense to me. Asda shoppers trust Asda wholeheartedly and many are still put off by the highly techie nature of mobile phone stores. The range may not be as broad as that offered by O2 or Orange in their high street stores but that’s not what it’s designed to be.

Tesco has launched an advertising campaign shouting about its network Tesco Mobile and how it offers 12-month contracts, while most of its mobile sector rivals have moved towards 18-month or in the case of the iPhone 24-month mobile contracts.

There is a contingent of the mobile world that views supermarket mobile networks as second rate but I think that does the supermarkets a disservice.

While the likes of O2, Orange and Three pride themselves on the tech savvy nature of their stores and the depth and breadth of their ranges of the latest gadgetry and mobile devices, there’s a massive chunk of consumers left cold by this approach.

Many are horror-struck at the thought of signing up for two years to get hold of the latest iPhone on the day of release.

The chance to have access to a good value, reliable phone from a retailer you trust in a hassle-free environment ticks all the boxes.

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