1/24/2008 9:58:00 AM
Box breakers target Argos
Argos - the most prolific retailer in the Christmas period dominated by prepay sales - is at the centre of controversy over box breaking this week.
There are widespread claims that over 40% of the retailer’s sales during the Christmas period were not activated, suggesting that its heavily subsidised offers may have been snapped up by box breakers.
Two networks are said to have suffered in particular, and a senior source at one of them admitted to Mobile: ‘What you are saying is not completely unfounded. They didn’t connect as many as were dispatched. It was worse than in previous years.’
Another operator said that box breaking was on a par with previous years.
Phone unlocking firms claim they are seeing high levels of box breaking involving Argos. One, which asked not to be named, said it was exporting £50,000 worth of phones mainly sourced in Argos every day. ‘We have about 300 collectors bringing in 100 handsets every couple of days. They get paid £2-£3 per handset. The vast majority are from Argos. About £50,000 worth of handsets are being exported every day and that’s just through us.’
The source added: ‘The networks’ connection figures are a complete farce. They’re complicit in this. Looking at the way stock comes in here I’d be surprised if any of it gets connected.’
However, Argos and some of its suppliers have strongly denied the 40% claim. ‘That’s definitely a no. It’s way too high,’ said a spokeswoman.
George McPherson, MD of Phones International, parent company of Data Select, said: ‘Our mobile sales were strong through Argos at Christmas. They are very canny in the way they approach business. I don’t see any sign of Argos having a problem with box breaking.’
Unlike many retailers, Argos does not ask customers to top up at point of sale – a deterrent in the fight against box breaking. The retailer has been on a roll since launching its Christmas catalogue, climbing to the number one prepay retailer in November.
In the same month, sales through all non-specialist retailers stood 36% higher than the previous year – although the validity of those sales may now be in doubt.