12/3/2008 12:24:00 PM
Woolworths’ lasting legacy
Woolworths’ contribution to mobile retail polarises opinion. Cynics say it offered little more than a means of clearing cheap sub £30 handsets with customers who barely used their handsets. The most controversial slur, though, is that it was the preferred haunt of the box breaker. To give Woolworths its due, operators have consistently said that its box-breaking level was on a par with other retailers.
Our revelations earlier this year of evidence that the retailer was involved in a buy-back scheme and passed off phones through its tills did, however, support the views of the critics. It was frankly appalling that a retailer of such heritage was pro-actively involved in such practices.
The fact that the networks appeared to take such an indifferent view of the revelations suggested they were reluctant to switch off the tap (as well as indicated the desperation of some operators for connections). The implicit message was that Woolies was important, and doing something right.
The retailer had virtually created a market profile – what some have called ‘the Vicky Pollard segment’.
The lurid pink phone was born in Woolworths and spawned a series of iterations. It also introduced clever bundles and gift packs in a bid to introduce value, which would attract genuine customers but deter box breakers.
The short-term future for mobile operators with stock in Woolworths remains dicey. The administrator’s priority of clearing the stock and raising cash is already causing jitters with networks fearing box breakers will fill their boots.
If that does indeed happen, for many people, Woolies’ lasting legacy in our little world will be services to box breakers.