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Wednesday, July 19, 2006

The Death of the UK Independent Mobile Retailer

Although rumours of their death have before been widely exaggerated, I feel that the evidence is starting to come through that the independents will struggle to make it through the next couple of years.

From Mobile Today:

Around 60 electronic good retailers – the majority of them mobile phone dealers - went bust last year representing a 27% increase. The explosive growth of big retail chains, out-of-town retail parks and supermarkets for killing off small independent retailers from all sectors. The last time there were such high numbers of insolvencies was in 1993, when a major spike in interest rates forced many retailers to go bust. The figures make grim reading for mobile, but there could be worse to come. They chart a period before the networks began their current retail expansion drive.

Remember this is dealers going bust and does not include independents shutting up their shutters or morphing into SME resellers. In addition to this, the outbound direct sales operations are shutting down (thank god) with people like 3 and Orange realising that they just do not deliver profitable and happy customers: the incredible shrinking act of dial-a-phone is evidence of this. Add to these the withdrawal of The Link from our High Streets and the expanded retailed presence of T-Mobile, H3G UK and Virgin and we have a radical reshaping of the high street and distribution within the consumer segment of the market.

The end result will be more control for the MNOs, less subsidy pressure from the retailers and less pricing pressure from the handset manufacturers in the UK market.