Supermarket giant Sainsbury’s is throwing down the gauntlet to Tesco by launching a trial of mobile phone shops within two of its superstores in partnership with A1 Comms and 20:20 Mobile.
The two mobile phone shops, located at its Letchworth and King’s Lynn stores, will sell contract deals with EE, O2, Vodafone and Three, as well as pay as you go phones and Sim-only contracts and a range of accessories. The retailer has cut a deal with A1 Comms to supply the airtime, while 20:20 Mobile will supply handsets and accessories.
The own-brand departments will be staffed by dedicated Sainsbury’s staff, trained to sell mobile phones and accessories. Handsets will range from feature phones to smartphones from most major manufacturers including Samsung, HTC, Nokia, LG and Huawei. The iPhone will not be on offer although a source said Sainsbury’s is hopeful of getting the go-ahead from Apple to stock the iPhone in the New Year.
Sainsbury’s is also aiming to leverage its customer loyalty card scheme, offering customers 2,500 Nectar card points for every contract deal.
If the trial is successful it will see a major shift in Sainsbury’s mobile phone strategy, which currently offers a limited range of pay as you go phones in store and online. The retailer also hosts two O2 concessions at its Stanway and Crayford superstores. These were launched as trials in 2010 but no further concessions have been opened since the launch.
A Sainsbury’s spokesman said: ‘We’re always looking at ways to serve our customers better and we are trialling moving our mobile phone offer into a new dedicated location within our Letchworth and King’s Lynn stores.’
Asked if Sainsbury’s would continue its partnership with O2, he added: ‘We currently have two O2 concessions in our Stanway and Crayford stores and these continue to be part of our mobile offer.’
The trial follows the supermarket group’s appointment of former Carphone Warehouse retail director Anthony Hemmerdinger in August. Hemmerdinger (pictured) quit Carphone Warehouse after just 18 months to return to Sainsbury’s, and will take up the role of business development director from 1 January 2013. Sainsbury’s refused to comment on whether Hemmerdinger would spearhead a fresh push on mobile.
The news also follows reports earlier this year that the supermarket was in talks with EE to set up an MVNO.