EE is opening up a new front in its battle to conquer the UK high street with plans to roll out new concept stores across the UK.
The move closely follows the operator’s expansion of its franchise programme which will see its franchise store boosted from 22 to 100 stores this year.
EE’s focus on retail comes as the UK’s operators square up for a turf fight for the high street with Vodafone planning to open 250 stores in the UK this year and O2 expanding its franchise programme.
EE’s new concept stores come in two formats – one designed for retail park stores and the other for high street stores.
EE is already test driving the formats at its EE store in the Team Valley retail park in Gateshead near Newcastle and the high street formats at its flagship stores on Oxford Street in London and at the Bull Ring in Birmingham.
Speaking to Mobile Dierdre Burns, EE retail director, said: ‘’The new format will provide our customers with a new journey and a new concept category with b2b hubs and a focus on how to treat our loyal customers in the best way possible so they have a great experience. We have already tested these formats and we are rolling them out across all our stores.’
Burns is also spearheading EE’s major franchise push which will see EE transfer 50 directly managed stores to franchise partners and create another 28 new franchise stores. EE said the move will see 350 jobs created.
She said: ‘The high street is working for us, and we are committed to operating the best shops, in the right locations.
‘We’ve already determined the new areas to develop and grow and now have plans for 50 new EE stores to open, including a number of franchise outlets, over the next 12 months creating hundreds of new jobs.’
However franchise partners will have to stump up between £200,000 to £350,000 depending on the size and location of the franchise stores.
Burns defended the high cost of an EE franchise partnership, pointing to the benefits of being backed by a major high street brand with access to all the latest flagship products from major manufacturers.
EE has also pledged to help franchise partners find sources of finance, whilst stopping short of offering direct funding to its partners.
Burns said the franchise expansion will bring greater access to a broader demographic of customers.
‘This is all about location for us. We want to bring EE to as many locations as possible,’ she said, adding: ‘This is a great growth model and in the future we could expand it further.’
However Burns insisted that EE staff would be consulted before any further tranches of franchise stores are created.
Burns stressed; ‘We have recognized change is hard for people and we have to go at the right pace and help people through that.’
Will this give EE the advantage on the high street?