The recent strife to hit certain high street stores is predominantly down to management being ‘wrong-footed’ or a failure to react quickly to prevailing trends – it would be far too easy to just blame the recession.
Of course, the fragility of the economy didn’t make it any easier for stores like Jessops and HMV, which were guilty of failing to make much-needed underlying structural changes at the appropriate time. They committed the cardinal retail sin – being guilty of failing to meet the changing demands of consumers, which has generally remained pretty resilient.
As one retail analyst commented, ‘It’s all about being in the right part of the market’ and spotting emerging trends quickly – something which, I am pleased to say, the mobile industry seems to do well. Most will agree there remains a strong appetite for certain mobile telephony and devices – the product cycle continues to remain strong. Just look at the phenomenal sales figures for tablets over the Christmas period. Also, sales of the Windows phones have more than trebled in the UK in the last year, according to the latest statistics from Kantar. And with the widespread arrival of 4G this year, there are even more opportunities for mobile retailers.
In fact, there appears to be plenty of evidence that key retailers are more than happy to invest in their high street portfolios and be in a prime position to take advantage as the economy recovers – O2’s Ronan Dunne and Phones 4u’s Tim Whiting have recently pledged their continued confidence in the high street. Every business has to consider streamlining or undergoing a review of its business model. Look at EE, which invested in a huge rebranding programme, and O2, which is increasingly looking to go down the franchise route.
It will also depend on how the manufacturers will want to distribute their products and whether operators will continue with their heavy subsidies. These will be key factors which will determine the future viability of the many mobile shops in our high streets. However, most experts are predicting a healthy future, saying consumers will continue to demand a hands-on experience with a device rather than just pressing a ‘buy’ button on their computer screens.