New concepts for better retail

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Mobile phone retail remains a sector struggling to throw off its image for hard selling and mis-selling in the eyes of many customers.

Ofcom has recently taken steps to enforce retailers to be more transparent when driving sales, by introducing its General Condition 23  rule stipulating service providers must not engage in “dishonest, misleading or deceptive conduct”.

Meanwhile, punters are increasingly turning to the internet to browse for consumer electronics such as mobile phones on their own terms.

IMRG Capgemini’s recent e-Retail Sales Index says there was a 20.2 per cent increase in online electrical sales between August 2008 and August 2009; even as handsets have suddenly become more complex and burdened with applications, and deserve more careful selling.

Mobile phone retailers have responded by broadening their portfolios beyond conventional mobile products to draw in a more diverse crowd.

Their brands have been tweaked to play on this, as well as their benevolent new focus on service and retention.

And many have started to roll out new concept stores to showcase all this good intent.

Carphone Warehouse was the first to launch a new concept store format in October last year, when it debuted its ‘wireless world’ stores.

This enhanced and expanding store footprint boasts laptops, media storage, ‘sling boxes’ (remote access to a computer or television), games, televisions and television packages.

It ranges samples of the products on the shop floor for customers to try and works in an IT support centre, run by Geek Squad staff, to repair devices and offer in-depth technical knowledge.

A month after Carphone announced its ‘wireless world’ stores, O2 began preparations for its similarly-themed ‘connected world’ stores, comprising a wider product range than regular O2 shops.

They are also a natural destination for O2’s own service expansion with the likes of its Joggler and O2 Money cards. Customers can log in to their accounts at self-service desks, top up and buy tickets to O2-sponsored events.

Orange and Phones 4U have also announced concept stores. Orange launched a community store in Monmouth, Wales, in July and a multimedia store in Milton Keynes on October 6.

The community store has a coffee lounge set up with a kitchen and newspapers for customers, offering a more relaxed environment. The site hosts coffee mornings for locals.

Full article in Mobile News issue 450 (October 19, 2009).

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