Runners up - Vodafone and Three
Phones 4u narrowly missed out on the top prize last year but it has bounced back spectacularly and was a popular choice among the judging panel. One judge said: ‘For me, it wins because of four things. Performance, innovation, exclusives, and heart.’ Another added: ‘It has come on miles during the past couple of years. Phones 4u understands consumers and that’s crucial if you want to be the best retailer.’
The panel agreed that if you were a phone manufacturer seeking to make a splash with a new handset, Phones 4u was the retailer to approach. It secured a string of exclusives over the past 12 months, including launching the HTC Sensation XE handset in late 2011.
It boasts a high smartphone penetration and its long-standing focus on early adopters means it can help make or break a device. One judge said: ‘It is the device manufacturers’ friend. It launches devices and moves onto the next one.’
But it has also listened to its customers. The judges noted how Phones 4u has moved away from the hyper-aggressive model of old and become a lot more conversational in its approach. The retailer said its sales pitch is more relaxed and based on listening to a customer’s needs to put the right handset in their hands.
Flexibility is key for the retailer and is reflected in its recently launched Jump tariff. Standing for ‘Just Update My Phone’, Jump allows customers to upgrade their device every six months by splitting the costs for the airtime contract and the handset.
Another instance in which it listened and then launched is with its 4u WiFi service.
The offer came out of conversations with customers last year, who were either concerned about data use or on prepay but wanted internet access on their phones. It launched in November and now has more than 50,000 registered users.
The judges felt the company’s social media strategy was much more evolved than its rivals and something that is fully integrated with its overall strategy. It has more than 450,000 ‘Likes’ on Facebook and over 9,000 Twitter followers, with the account also dealing with queries and complaints.
Contrary to the wider challenges on the high street, Phones 4u is looking to expand. Its retail portfolio grew by 84 stores during the past 12 months, with almost 500 new jobs created. The company said it had invested £2m in staff training and development and feels its workers are choosing to vote with their feet in the right way, with staff turnover significantly reduced.
This faith and investment in its staff, along with its flexibility to cope with the changing market, singled it out as the leading retailer in its field. One judge said: ‘It’s clean, ambitious, well organised and aggressive. It is the best equipped retailer to cope with the coming changes in the market.’
- Carphone Warehouse
- Phones 4u