Carphone will go head to head with Brightstar and Brightpoint after former Samsung UK MD Mark Mitchinson was appointed in the new role of group MD of business, wholesale and distribution this week.
The move will see Carphone re-enter the distribution market after effectively pulling back two years ago. The retailer acquired HSC (formerly Hugh Symons) for £10m in 2005.
Industry sources said Mitchinson’s arrival could herald the relaunch of the retailer’s wholesale ambitions. The appointment will see Mitchinson take charge of HSC, with the distributor’s business director Bob Sweetlove becoming his direct report.
Some industry analysts suggested that Carphone would also leverage its relationship with Best Buy to sell a converged set of enterprise products.
Meanwhile, Mitchinson will grow Carphone’s internal wholesale arm alongside HSC.
One source said: ’Mark is well known in the industry and is very popular with the sub distributors and dealers, so Carphone may be using him to open doors if they have ambitions in that space.’
A distributor source said: ‘This is a very interesting appointment that could lead to some big changes to Carphone’s strategy. It depends what Mark’s brief is, but Carphone has leveraged its buying power before to go down the dealer channel.’
Another distributor warned that the move could skew the market. He said: ‘The concern is that the advantageous pricing Carphone can get, which will be lower than any distributor can get in the marketplace, could disrupt the distribution market.’
Strand Consult MD John Strand added: ‘I think Carphone could be looking to become a very serious player in the wholesale market, which will see it competing with Brightpoint and Brightstar.
‘In the past, Carphone withdrew from wholesale because of the grey market and VAT fraud but with the market maturing they may want to try again. Also they can guarantee big volumes, particularly with their links to Best Buy, which means their volumes will be even bigger.’
Strand said sourcing problems, which dogged operators in 2010, could also be a driver.
‘Manufacturers’ sourcing problems are becoming a real problem to operators and so if Carphone can guarantee good volumes it can make very good business with the operators.’
Carphone would not comment at the time Mobile went to press.