Mobile operators are slowing down their retail expansion, despite the offer of bargain-basement deals from the hard-pressed property market.
Vodafone has only opened a handful of stores since March, which include Heathrow and Kings Cross. 3 has opened three stores in the last six weeks, while T-Mobile and Orange have also been careful with expansion.
A director of one multiple retailer said: ‘I don’t see any of the operators opening significant numbers of stores. O2 aren’t, Vodafone aren’t, nor are Orange. And 3 is slowing down.’
A director of one of the big four operators told Mobile: ‘The market is smaller than it was and operators are applying a greater level of diligence to new openings. They measure on connections per store, and those that have got large numbers of stores are staying put.’
Phones 4u has opened five stores in the last six weeks, and Carphone Warehouse has opened three. Independent retailers are benefiting from
a broader range of products and continue to invest.
Jason Sibthorpe of leading property consultant GVA Grimley said: ‘The networks and retailers are certainly not pressing ahead with store acquisition plans as aggressively as before.
‘The intent is still there, but they will not be rushing into deals. They will be looking to dictate as many terms as they possibly can.’
Ian Driver, sales director of Virgin Mobile, said: ‘We will only open new stores if it is cost effective.
‘The ambition is to grow organically. With regards to the other operators, I’m not seeing a rush to open new stores. O2 have said they will only do it through franchises.’
Another property specialist added: ‘It is definitely a quieter property market out there. For a while there hasn’t been any big news in terms of group deals between mobile operators and property developers.’
3 claims it will launch a further 20 stores by the end of the year, and Orange maintains that it has aggressive plans.