Last chance saloon?

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When is an independent mobile dealer not an independent mobile dealer? When, like Thornton Heath entrepreneur Akif Sadique, youre the owner of Phone City on the London Road.

The difference is apparent to even the most casual passer-by. Despite the shops name, the first thing youll see walking past are the ranks of PCs on display.

Its a classic case of diversification and sadly reveals the state of mind of many independent dealers these days. Im using it as my back-up plan should Phone City ever fold, admits Sadique. Ive been looking at the possibility of selling second-hand PCs for a while now, because I felt there was enough shop space here.

Sadique, who has been running Phone City for eight years, has started selling Pentium 3 systems for £120 and Pentium 4 systems for £200 monitor included.

I had my first delivery just last week and weve already done a few of the basic Pentium 3 PCs, he says. It would definitely be something I would look to develop further should the dealer channel get worse.

At least hes not planning on stopping selling mobile altogether yet. If the trade takes off, Sadique plans to divide his store in two, giving over one side to each.

I would still keep the name Phone City, he adds, because that is the name people have always associated with me and the shop.

Its a sad indictment on the state of independent mobile retail that Sadique should be forced into this position. Hes been in the mobile industry in some capacity since day one, a moment he describes as when Vodafone flicked the switch.

My working life started by fitting house and car alarms in the 1980s with my brother, he says. Then I joined a friend in South Croydon who had a car accessories shop, where I started selling mobile phones and doing car installations.

He left the industry briefly to look after some family-owned restaurants, but returned in 1999 to open Phone City. Initially it was part of a nationwide franchise, but three years ago that collapsed, leaving its dealers totally independent.

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