Carphone Warehouse gets serious about B2B

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HSC has been rebranded as ‘Carphone Warehouse Business’ and has set its sights on being the UK’s number one destination for the B2B market. In an exclusive interview, editor Michael Garwood hears about its plans

It’s been almost seven years since Carphone Warehouse Group chairman Charles Dunstone paid £6 million for airtime distributor HSC – then known as Hugh Symons Communications.

Surprisingly, it’s only now that the world’s largest independent mobile retail brand is making its presence felt, finally rebranding HSC as ‘Carphone Warehouse Business’ (CPWB) on June 1.

According to CPWB head of partners Bob Sweetlove and CPW group business director Paul Layte, this change involved much more than swapping the signs over at HSC’s Poole HQ.

They claim to have combined the best assets of HSC and Carphone to provide the most extensive offerings available anywhere in today’s market.

The internal goal is simple: CPW wants to achieve in B2B what it has done in consumer for the past
23 years.

It’s a tall order, and when CPW chief commercial officer Graham Stapleton made the claim last year, following the announcement that CPW would push B2B connections through its 800 plus stores, many scoffed at the suggestion.

But sitting with Layte and Sweetlove in Dunstone’s plush office at CPW HQ in North Acton, confidence that it can achieve its ambitions is undeniably high.

“There is nothing stopping us from being the number one destination for business connections in the UK,” says Layte. “It will take a lot of hard work, but we’ll do what we need to to achieve that.

“We’re pulling together a directorate which covers the direct and indirect sides of the market and I don’t know anyone out there who has the same breadth and route to market that we have in the business space.

“HSC has been doing an extremely good job already with Orange and T-Mobile, and won O2 Centre of Excellence partner of the year in 2011. It’s a leading distributor.

“We’re taking something which is already established and widely recognised and making it even better with a number of unique propositions.”

Sweetlove, who has been with HSC for almost 18 years, has said in the past that there has been a lack of support from its parent company, leaving HSC to trade almost entirely as an independent business. Layte admitted as much at HSC’s 2011 Christmas dealer event and apologised for the lapse.

But now that the firm is more closely associated with the CPW brand and enjoys a much closer partnership with it, Sweetlove believes the opportunity to grow the business has never been greater.

“As CPW it’s going to be a lot easier to have a conversation with people about who we are and what we do, rather than have to explain who HSC is first.

“I’ve said before under different people, I felt HSC was at the end of someone else’s remit.

“But now we have a group business directorate and a natural place to be. The time feels right for us to be more overtly CPW.

“Not only do we have the buying power, but we also have the additional skill set. In every segment in CPW there is a specialist that can benefit my team.”

New era
It’s important to note that this is a rebrand, not a complete restructure.

HSC’s existing Poole office, which the company has occupied for 20 years, remains unaffected, as are its 50 plus staff.

Sweetlove says the office is now effectively CPWB partner HQ and was in the process of being rebadged accordingly as Mobile News went to press.

Internally, Sweetlove is still the “main man” for the indirect channel, and will continue to report to Layte as he has done for the past year.

Reporting to Sweetlove will be Carlos Pestana, whose title changes from sales manager to partner sales manager, and Theresa Williams, who is now partner marketing director. Her team is expected to be increased shortly.

Simon Robinson has been promoted internally from HSC’s finance team to become head of operations. He is tasked with driving quality of partner service levels and will also report to Sweetlove.

Sweetlove says: “From the staff point of view, not much has changed. But what we can offer our partners has, and that’s the exciting part.”

HSC’s popular ‘Your HSC’ website and portal will, predictably, be rebranded as CPWB with a new web URL of www.partners.carphonewarehouse.com. This takes effect from June 6.

This will now appear as a separate domain on the official CPW website, where existing HSC members can log in and others can request to sign up as a partner.

The new site will continue to use HSC’s “industry-leading” Oracle system, which enables partners to view stock in real time, track orders and manage every aspect of their commercial relationship with HSC/CPWB, as well as monitor connections and commissions, all from a single location and account.

Around 65-70 per cent of all stock orders went through Your HSC in 2011.

Full article in Mobile News issue 515 (June 4, 2012).

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