Hard-up mobile phone dealers are turning to repairs and unlocking to supplement their income as the number of contract connections in the channel decreases.
With 18 and 24-month contracts all but replacing 12-month deals consumers have less opportunity to change or upgrade their handset, unless they pay the full cost of the device.
And customers taking advantage of Sim-only offers have to prolong the life of their phone or unlock it to take advantage of the improved text and minute deals.
One dealer in Bradford said: ‘We never used to do repairs. One year ago, 100% of my business was contracts, but now it’s only 25% - the rest is made up of repairs.’
Another dealer, in Southampton, agreed. He said: ‘We’ve noticed that more and more businesses are doing repairs and unlocking. The demand has gone up for those kinds of services. A year ago, 15% of our business was repairs, now it makes up 25%.’
John Saadat, managing director of the Mobile Repair Centre which has 18 repair centres in west London, attributed the growth in the repair industry to saturation of the handset market.
‘Everyone’s got two or three handsets, and people want to keep a phone as back-up – 90% of our customers have more than one phone,’ he said. ‘Also, I don’t think any phone now has more than a 12 month life span.’
Many dealers are self-taught in the art of phone repairs, with basic equipment for sale by the larger trade repair centres.
But Saadat said the rise in numbers of dealers attempting repairs was a problem for his repair business.
‘We stopped doing trade repairs a while ago,’ he said. ‘Dealers try to find out what we did to repair a handset so they can copy it, and then they moan when they break the handset.’
For retail staff, the increased focus on repairs in stores has not been entirely welcome. One contacted Mobileto say: ‘I’m a sales associate but I increasingly feel like a repairs specialist.
‘Now as this is starting to affect the money I earn, I’m keen to see myself earning bonus per repair.’