The number of 3 concessions in Superdrug stores could be cut by up to half next year as the network looks to concentrate direct sales through its own retail estate, Mobile understands.
A decision on the number of Superdrug concessions to be cut is expected in the first quarter of 2008.
3’s decision to scale back from Superdrug, coupled with its lack of compelling prepay deals, has cleared the way for Superdrug bosses to negotiate their own deals to stock prepay handsets from other networks through 20:20 Mobile.
While the number of Superdrug concessions has remained at 130 throughout 2007, the number of standalone 3 stores has increased by 150, taking the total number to 250. The rapid growth has meant a number of 3 stores are finding themselves in direct competition with the concessions.
A spokeswoman for 3 said: ‘We are continuing to expand our standalone retail portfolio, which has reached over 250 stores across the UK. Now we have reached this scale, it is time to look at optimising our entire retail operation, in which Superdrug will continue to play an integral role.’
Hutchison Whampoa, parent company for both 3 and Superdrug, had previously blocked attempts by Superdrug chiefs to stock cheap prepay phones from other networks because it didn’t want to undermine 3’s propositions, but the situation has now changed.
A number of Superdrug stores stock their own range of prepay handsets, including Samsung’s E250 for £49.99 on Virgin Mobile and Nokia’s 6070 on T-Mobile for £39.99.
A 3 source said: ‘It was a problem in the past, but it’s just sensible business to let Superdrug sell prepay deals when we’re not focusing on that area at the moment and we have our own stores.’
Separately, 3 has yet to reach a decision on whether to extend its concessions trial currently taking place in six HMV stores across the country.
3 handsets are available in two ‘next generation’ HMV stores in Tunbridge Wells and Dudley, and in a further four stores in Reading, Leeds, Rotherham and Hatfield.
A spokesman for HMV said there were ‘no immediate plans’ to increase the number of concessions, but it would review the situation next year.