O2 to shut 40 stores in retail restructure

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Store closures and redundancies to hit O2’s retail business, although it claims investment and overall staff numbers will be up in 2011 as it puts focus on technical support for customers

O2 UK is to shut 40 of its 490 high street shops, and to segment its retail estate in three tiers according to their footfall and sales.

Bigger and busier stores will be ranked in the top tier. Small shops, which will comprise most of the forthcoming closures, will be ranked in the third tier. Medium-sized stores will be ranked between.

The closures will run in line with around 400 redundancies across the business over the next three months.

It said retail numbers will be the same at the end of the forthcoming redundancy process as current levels, and up on present numbers by the end of the year.

O2 said it will recruit 250 technology advisers, or ‘Gurus’, at the same time, bringing its number of Gurus to 400 in total.

It is unclear whether O2 will seek to have, broadly, one Guru per store, or focus technical resource on tier-one shops.

It said the move is to expand its portfolio of devices and services and increase investment in technical support for customers.

It claimed the new categorisation of shops will provide a better career path for retail staff.

A new staff pay structure will see retail staff in busier stores, with greater responsibility for sales, earn more than in quiet shops, whereas pay is set level for retail staff across its estate at present.

Investment will also go into the redesign of its store estate, with refitting of 100 tier-one stores scheduled for broader handset demo areas, gaming lounges and the O2 Guru ‘bars’.

O2 said, overall, its investment in its shops will increase in 2011 compared with 2010.

Of the 40 shop closures, 39 will shut by April, with just one of the stores slated to shut affected by longer-term lease arrangement.

O2 UK retail general manager Richard Baylis said: “This is a whole new approach for our retail business, starting from a position of strength and with the customer experience at the heart.

“Our increased investment, store redesign and introduction of 250 extra Gurus will really help make sales and service inseparable for the customer and subsequently deliver a better experience.

“And our staff will be empowered to deliver that experience, using their expertise to graduate through the ranks of a three-tiered O2 store portfolio.”

The role of consumer director, formerly held by Stephen Shurrock, is still to be filled, covered in the interim by business director Ben Dowd.

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