1/7/2009 5:33:00 PM
2009: Survive and prosper
It’s a lively start to the year, with long-term partners T-Mobile and Avenir having a very public break-up; stalwart sales chief Bernie O’Beirne heads for the exit at 3; and Nokia attempts to put prices up.
One thing we have not seen is a quarter day collapse. The period between Christmas and New Year is a perilous one for troubled companies, and a favourite one for banks to pull the plug, once they have received their quarterly interest (it was at this time of year that European Telecom originally collapsed during the tech crunch of 2001).
Thankfully the industry companies who made it safely to the end of 2008 have also made it into 2009. And if truth be told, Christmas was not as bad as feared. Don’t be deceived by the headline fall of 7%. For most players (most, that is, except the non-specialist retailers) sales held up reasonably well. There was some of the usual crazy discounting, mainly in an over-eager attempt to drive footfall in the final few days, but nothing like the extraordinary sales fever that gripped other areas of retail.
There was even a small increase in average selling prices – up 6% thanks to smartphones and high-end devices.
But nobody is getting carried away with the idea that 2009 will be a breeze. Operators will focus hard on cutting costs to fund better deals.
Vodafone is believed to want to save £200m in the UK and will be toothcombing its supply agreements from IT to property, and retail commissions to handset purchasing, to make savings. But, as Orange’s Jean-Pascal Overbeke implies in our New Year predictions (page 10), operators know they need others to get results. So good partners will be more valuable than ever. The best companies will survive 2009, and surprise, surprise, may even prosper.