If the cynics are to be believed, 2011 is set to provide one of the most challenging economic backdrops the retail industry has ever faced. There’s no doubt the year ahead is going to be tough; the VAT increase, Eurozone difficulties and cuts in Government spending are likely to cause customers to think twice when it comes to splashing out on mobile phone and other connectivity devices.
While the mobile industry is by no means immune to economic hardship, I do think it is resilient in many respects. We know that customers are not going to stop using their handsets and they are much more likely to curtail other areas of their spending before their mobile phones and other forms of connectivity needs.
The world will struggle with economic problems in 2011, but I am very confident Carphone Warehouse will succeed because I know we are uniquely positioned to cater for customers at what is a very exciting time for the industry.
The smartphone evolution was the main driver of growth at Carphone in 2010 and this trend is certain to continue in 2011. Carphone stands to benefit more than anyone else from the intense rivalry between Apple, Android, RIM, Nokia and Microsoft, particularly as more and more of their operating systems and smartphone features cascade down into the mid-tier section of the market. Alongside this are the increased levels of data usage, accessories and Geek Squad attachment rates which we know accompany smartphone sales.
If 2010 saw the emergence of tablet devices, then 2011 will see the category gain further mass market penetration. The market forecast from Gartner for 2011 now stands at 55 million units worldwide rising to 154 million units in 2013 and 208 million in 2014. I want Carphone to be the home of tablets in the same way as we are already the home of smartphones.
We have already set about evolving our new Wireless World stores, which really began to resonate with customers in 2010. I believe we have found the right formula and we will accelerate our roll out of new and refurbished Wireless World stores catering to the growing connectivity needs of customers in 2011.
Of course, to enable us to make our Wireless World vision intelligible for customers we absolutely must have great staff. In 2011 we will continue to focus on providing the very best employee training and recognition programmes. Underpinning all of this is our continued commitment to customer service and our heritage and expertise in explaining complex technologies to customers.
So yes, there are tough challenges ahead, but as long as we continue to innovate, put customers at the heart of everything we do and invest in our people, we will remain the number one retailer of choice for customers in 2011 and beyond.