Mobile: How do you see the mobile marketplace at present?
Brendan Sweeney: Plenty has been written about the shift from retail to direct, the shift from new contracts to upgrades and the growth of Sim-only. These changes have been fairly predictable and our focus has been to build capability in all channels and grow share in every category. We have always been strong in retail but two to three years ago, we were behind in direct. We invested heavily in Phones 4u Direct, Mobiles2yourdoor and acquired Dial-A-Phone.
So, do you still see growth for the traditional high street stores? What kind of role will they have?
I see growth for high street stores as long as they are focused and relevant to their target customers. I think the weaker players will disappear and the stronger ones will gain share. The growing complexity of the devices and applications means expert independent advice will have an important role and new revenue opportunities will continue to open up.
Is there a future for independents in this marketplace?
Small independents are in a difficult place. They have no scale, no brand, no clear customer segments and are likely to find life increasingly difficult.
We have scale, a strong brand that is hugely successful in the youth market, the most productive retail estate in the industry and we bring the highest value customers to the networks and manufacturers. Today, we have more customers than ever that strongly recommend us and have long-term agreements in place with our key business partners.
As long as we continue to do a good job for our customers and business partners, we can be confident for our future.
What changes have you been making over the past couple of years?
Our vision is to be the number one destination for the youth market in mobile communication and entertainment solutions. Everything we do is about delivering that vision.
A big part of that is ensuring that we have the best people in the industry and are a ‘great place for great people’.
Why the focus on ‘great people’?
Our culture and environment is not for everyone, if someone comes to work for us but doesn’t get excited by our vision, about doing an outstanding
job for our customers and about beating the competition, then they won’t enjoy it and we won’t want them in the business.
We offer the best earnings opportunities in our marketplace, the best training and development and legendary incentives such as our
recent ‘Survivor Island’ challenge in the Bahamas.
What are you doing to make sure these people stay at Phones 4u?
In the next quarter alone, we will deliver 80,000 training hours and in 2009 we have 3,500 people on NVQ programmes. Many companies cut back training spends when the environment gets tough, but we continue to increase ours and have just invested over £1m in a state of the art, new training facility in Fort Dunlop, which opens in May.
How do you square that with recent announcements on redundancies of administration roles in store?
While any changes that impact jobs are difficult decisions, it is important to understand the context of the changes we are making.
Our store administrators do a great job for us, but over the last 18 months we have simplified many of our systems and processes so our teams can do a wider range of tasks.
Many of our larger stores have the scale that still requires dedicated administration roles, but this is not the case in all outlets. We are currently consulting on the future of these roles but expect to redeploy the vast majority of affected people.
We have to make tough choices on where we invest in the business and if we don’t tackle efficiency, we will compromise our ability to invest in other areas that are critical to delivering our vision.
How do you feel about the future?
I’m very excited about the future. In addition to all the changes we are making in the business, we have just announced some structural improvements that will allow us to focus on some exciting retail developments and test new categories.