12/30/2010 10:07:00 AM
Power 50 Profile: Tim Whiting, CEO, Phones 4u
To get Phones 4u in shape for its second sale in the post-John Caudwell era is a major achievement, and much of the credit belongs to its CEO Tim Whiting. Whiting has had a consistent but different vision for retail, and his leadership has helped Phones 4u not only survive but thrive as a strong player. At a time when operators are keen to ditch third party retailers and go it alone, Phones 4u is acknowledged as a key partner because of its impressive track record in its core market of 16-24 year-olds. Whiting is credited as the main driver behind Phones 4u’s strong and highly successful relationship with BlackBerry. The company has also moved with the times and is leading the field in terms of its use of social media.
Phones 4u has undergone a major transformation over the last few years, but the business has really shifted over the last 12 months under Whiting’s leadership - and for this he makes a return to the Power 50 after a year's absence. Widely regarded as one of the shrewdest people in the industry, Whiting runs a very tight margin business, aided by some very able lieutenants. While he has made some concessions to the converged device offering, Whiting is determined to keep Phones 4u primarily as a specialist mobile phone retailer. The business concentrates its efforts on its chosen key customer segment of 16 to 24 year olds and saw its market share of this segment rise 22% year on year. What has really made the difference over the last year is Phones 4u’s understanding of its customer base. It has harnessed the social media which its customers love to both communicate to and engage with them. It uBar, an online panel of 3,000 mobile owners, provides a unique insight into its customers likes and dislikes. Whiting has also instigated a major store refresh and begun to put stores into Currys. His insistence on having quality staff is shown in his £10m investment in training over the next two years and in particular the NVQ programme.
Whiting is one of the shrewdest and most respected people in the industry. He has steered Phones 4u through challenge after challenge. On his watch, Phones 4u has been transformed into an effective retail force. Whiting has also successfully taken the business through the sale from the Caudwell Group and navigated the choppy waters of industry consolidation. He has moved Phones 4u towards long-term deals with networks and away from being a trader. His successes during the last year have included taking market share from rivals, winning back O2 as the acquisition of Dial-a-Phone.