Exactly one year ago, Tesco told Mobile it was launching an assault on the high street that would see it open 100 shops a year to reach 500 by 2013. A bold statement maybe – and clearly a little too bold, as a year to the day later, the retailer has opened only 87 stores.
True, it’s only 13 short – but things do not look good for the 2013 deadline.
Tesco admits that, yes, the store rollout has slowed, but with good reason. Investment will now be shared between new Phone Shops and a refurbishment plan intended to get the retailer up to the standards of its newly revamped competitors. There are live handsets on show and a new look for the retailer as it plots to steal customers from its bitter rival Carphone. And there is a new team in place, led by new Tesco Telecoms CEO Graham Harris, who replaced Lance Batchelor earlier this year.
Could the new team be taking a step back and asking whether in such a crowded market, quality rather than quantity is the key to catching up with rivals who are leaps ahead format-wise?
The focus is certainly still on Tesco’s Telecoms’ arm. Commenting on the retailer’s results, Tesco CEO Phil Clarke singled out Tesco Mobile as one of the strongest performers, predicting even stronger growth in 2011.
And the iPhone has done Tesco a lot of favours, along with its move into 12 month contracts. Tesco saw a 24% increase in its MVNO, Tesco Mobile’s, customers – making it the UK’s fastest growing network.
Tesco hasn’t quite got to the stage some had predicted, but the speed of its ascent will certainly startle Carphone Warehouse and Phones 4u. As will its aggressive stance. Phones 4u staffers told Mobile that at least four staff have recently been poached to work in Tesco Phone Shops.
This can only be a good sign. If the industry made one complaint about Tesco a year ago, it was that its staffers didn’t quite match up to the rest of the mobile industry.
From the outside, it may seem that Tesco is still a sleeping giant – but a refurbishment is not to be sniffed at. If it brings Tesco up to date with its rivals, the retailer could certainly become a force to be reckoned with. With the 2013 deadline looming on the horizon, it may just take longer than the retailer had previously anticipated.