8/14/2008 3:48:00 PM
Vodafone pounces on 50 more retail stores
Vodafone is attempting to buck the retail gloom by snapping up 50 more shops between October and March next year, taking its store portfolio to 400.
The network has decided to take advantage of hard-pressed landlords and shopping centres that have seen most general retailers pull back from expansion and even closing stores.
Vodafone’s sales chief, Tom Devine, has promised a wave of staff promotions as assistant managers are set to take store manager jobs for the bulk of the new shops. The company will recruit more junior salespeople externally, creating 200 new roles.
Vodafone is targeting London and the South East, particularly areas that have richer than average shoppers, even if the number of customers in that area is relatively low.
Retail property prices are expected to fall sharply through a combination of retail gloom and an influx of sites becoming available through shops closing down and several large shopping centres opening in the coming months.
Devine (pictured) said: ‘We can strike some good deals. There is an element of opportunism [from us].’
One well-placed source in the property market said landlords are trying to keep leases high, but are offering a range of incentives, such as a contribution to setup stores, a rent-free period and more flexibility for tenants, such as break-clauses.
The source also claimed that there would be around 12 million sq ft of new shopping space coming onto the market over the next five years, based on current or recently completed shopping centres.
Westfield in West London is the most high-profile location, but new centres in Cambridge and Cardiff are among the others expected.
The other major mobile retail chains are understood to have held back from opening stores. The source added: ‘Orange, T-Mobile, O2 and Phones 4u have all got their preferred locations out there, but they’re not busting a gut to take on sites at the moment.’
Devine added: ‘It takes a few months for new stores to establish themselves in their local area. We are looking for these stores to be on stream once the economy starts picking up next year.’