Non specialist retailers took a massive pounding over Christmas as the volume of handset sales decreased compared with the year before.
Non-specialist retailers saw their sales transactions slashed by 30% in December 2008, compared with the previous year, Mobile can reveal. This made them the biggest losers by far in a tight Christmas period, where the industry saw an overall fall of 7% on handset sales.
Woolworths' demise is partly to blame, although networks have been more cautious about dealing with non-specialists in order to avoid heavy discounting and box breaking.
New figures from GfK show that the industry took more money from customers in 2008 than in 2007, but only because sought-after smartphones like the iPhone and the BlackBerry Storm pushed up the average selling price.
Specialist independent retailers like Carphone Warehouse, Phones 4u, Chitter Chatter and Fonehouse saw sales edge up by 1.6% - but only after frantic discounting by some players in the final few days. Price cuts and two-for-one offers helped cut 11% from the average selling price of a handset in these stores.
GfK account manager Greg Hachin said: ‘The mobile phone market has been affected by the recession and we saw less handsets sold in December 2008 than 2007. Customers were looking for the best deals and promotions and delayed their purchases closer to 24 December, or even Boxing Day.
‘According to GfK Weekly Telecom Panel, the last week of 2008 was actually the only week of December where more handsets were sold compared with 2007.’
Individual retailers said privately they were reasonably happy with ?their performance.
One retailer said: ‘We were short on a couple of lines of LG, but so was the rest of the market. It didn’t impact results. I would say in terms of predicting orders, manufacturers delivering and customers getting what they want, it has been one of the most straightforward Christmases for 10 years.’
However, one senior retailer warned: ‘It was perhaps not as bad as people thought it would be. But the interesting period was never going to be the end of last year. It was always going to be the first six months of this year when unemployment starts to rise.’