Carphone fires 21 gun salute

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Carphone Warehouse is ramping up its Christmas activity this year by offering 21 exclusives, far more than it has made available to the British public in previous years. Its range of exclusives will drive sales and strengthen the brand in consumers’ minds, reckons chief commercial officer Graham Stapleton.

“It is massive for us. It is a considerably higher number than in previous years and it will bring us a much more loyal base and more customers,” he says.

Carphone has always bagged a decent range of exclusive products in time for the gifting season. However, this year’s selection of pure exclusives, colour variants and first-to-market devices will outstrip previous Christmas portfolios.

It is a necessary strategy given the climate, with competition more fierce than ever and consumers still reluctant to make rash purchases on luxury electronics following a difficult economic slump.

Stapleton took charge of Carphone’s expanded group purchasing, logistics and partner relationships in June 2008, moving from group managing director for purchasing and procurement after three years in that job.

He replaced George Dymond who ended his 10-year career in the business as trading chief with his departure for Australian supermarket Coles.

An essential part of Stapleton’s brief is to secure exclusive lines, and to lift Carphone up in consumer consciousness as the retailer with the broadest and most unique range of devices.

He has set about the task by splitting manufacturers as ‘strategic’ partners and ‘tactical’ partners, where the former are worked on to differentiate Carphone’s portfolio and the latter are to provide the meat and bones of its everyday supply.

New scale that comes through its international joint venture with US electronics giant Best Buy affords it even more scale, and hence appeal to vendors considering where to place stock.

Stapleton is not about to disclose the names of Carphone’s ‘strategic’ handset partners, nor the full roster of 21, but one can fairly conclude that Nokia is high on the agenda.

It has featured heavily on Carphone’s exclusive list through the latter part of the year, and heads up Carphone’s early pitch to Christmas shoppers with three mid-tier exclusives from its Illuvial Pink Collection.

It appears any issues with Nokia over the onward trade of the Nokia 5530 Xpress Music handset, which it enjoyed a six-week exclusive on in August, have not yet surfaced.

Carphone took huge volumes of the 5530 for the exclusive, and was forced to sell a tranche into trade channels outside Europe as demand failed supply.

Stapleton won’t be drawn, but dismisses the notion Carphone committed to such volumes to prevent certain rivals securing the 5530.

Full article in Mobile News issue 452 (November 16, 2009).

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