10/8/2008 4:05:00 PM
Carphone calling the tune
Charles Dunstone now leaves most aspects of running the Carphone Warehouse retail business to others, but those close to him say he can’t help but become involved in taking a punt on the Christmas product range. ‘He’s instinctively good at knowing the customer and he loves it,’ said one source close to Carphone. He doesn’t always get it right (for every pink Motorola V3, there is a Nokia Cath Kidston), but the instinct always seems to be in the right place.
This week, at Wembley Stadium, four days before Fabio Capello looks for the magic formula of tactics, selection and luck to beat the mighty Kazakhstan, Charles Dunstone was in the same venue, telling his troops about a similar alchemy he had struck to find sales in what is predicted to be the most dismal Christmas shopping periods in recent history.
Carphone is putting its backing behind Nokia’s debut Comes With Music handset, the 5310, bundling a free laptop and 3’s mobile broadband with it. The Nokia 5310 offers unlimited music downloads for 12 months. If it works, it will encapsulate the contrast in mentality between the retailer and the operators. Operators hate what Nokia is doing. It clashes directly with their own ambitions to make money out of music, despite the meagre returns so far.
While operators are looking at the financial cost, strategic implications and where it could conflict with their own services, Carphone has asked one question: ‘Will customers want it?’. If the answer is yes, Carphone has gone about its normal game of building a proposition that customers want, making the service clear and exciting in stores and to give Dunstone something to crow about in the post-Christmas results presentations to the City. But as operators will no doubt say, the proposition will undoubtedly be financed through their subsidy. If Carphone can do it with operators’ money, can’t they do it themselves?