The return of Mark Mitchinson to the mobile industry after an eight month absence is unlikely to surprise many. Perhaps a few eyebrows are being raised at the fact that the former VP of Samsung Mobile UK and Ireland has turned up at Carphone Warehouse in the newly created role of managing director of business wholesale and distribution.
Mitchinson's experience at Samsung means he is very much seen as a devices man. But people probably shouldn’t be too surprised at his new appointment, although the move looks to be something of a sideways one. Prior to his 10 years at Samsung, Mitchinson was at Brightpoint and his role at Samsung gave him plenty of contacts among and understanding of retailers, distributors and dealers.
Of more interest is what exactly lies behind his appointment? What is Carphone up to? What it looks like is Carphone having another go at boosting its presence in the mobile wholesale distribution market.
The retailer has been here before. In 2008, it acquired Hugh Symons (now HSC) as part of a push into distribution. Carphone may have flexed its muscles a little too hard at the time, especially in its relationship with the networks. At any rate it pulled back from an aggressive expansion into distribution leaving HSC as something of an island within the overall Carphone business.
But now Carphone is expanding into the wholesale market again. Mitchinson is in charge of HSC and Carphone’s own internal wholesale arm. The word is, Carphone wants to grow its wholesale business and with Best Buy’s backing it has the buying power to negotiate very keen prices and guarantee big volumes to manufacturers.
Carphone could take on the likes of Brightstar and Brightpoint and cause some ructions in the market by offering lower prices than other distributors. It all depends what its aims are and how aggressive it wants to be. It may, for example, be more interested in carving out some niches, such as using its buying power to get first dibs on handsets and then supplying them to other, such as operators, when they find supplies hard to get.
It will be interesting to see how serious Carphone is about its latest attempt to grab a bigger share of the wholesale market. The appointment of an industry big hitter like Mitchinson suggests it is very serious. If so, other distributors have a right to be nervous of its ambitions.