9/19/2014 11:00:00 AM
End of an era
You know that it’s going to be a dramatic Monday morning when the action begins on Sunday night. That was the case this week as the news that Phones 4u was entering administration broke the evening before the firm was set to reveal the news to its staff.
It was particularly sad as the news may also herald the end of the high street’s independent mobile salesperson – the employee with no contractual obligation to any network or manufacturer who was number crunching the best deals line by line long before any price comparison website. Of course there will be Dixons-Carphone staff still guiding consumers, but it won’t be purely mobile any more. While the different networks and tariffs will remain, you’ll have to do a lot more store hopping to compare what’s best. Will that drive people online? We’ll have to wait and see.
That’s not to forget the different companies vying for Phones 4u’s high street spots, as the battle for the assets has well and truly begun. At this stage it seems unlikely that anyone will take the majority of stores but there will be some big plays to extend or establish a brand’s high street presence. It will be worth keeping an eye on Sky and BT, two brands that many industry experts believe must move into the MVNO space sooner rather than later: with a high street opportunity offering trained mobile staff now present, they could be forced to show their hand. Of course any discussions about quad-play brands must also include Virgin who will surely be looking to counterpunch a rival’s attempts to use the Phones 4u situation to overtake Virgin’s own high street presence.
Along with the few who can seize the opportunities there are many companies looking to protect the business from the implications of frozen assets and shop closures. Manufacturers and distributors alike must be hoping that a resolution is found swiftly so that their stock can be moved on. Hopefully whoever takes on Phones 4u’s stores remembers that they are dealing with some of the most respected and well trained staff the mobile industry has seen.