Vodafone CEO backtracks on plans for ‘fewer’ stores

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Vittorio Colao said in 2012 he wanted “fewer” but “bigger” stores, with store numbers shrinking from 400 to 354. The company has now announced it will open 150 stores over the next 12 months

Vodafone’s decision to open 150 retail stores over the next 12 months represents a U-turn for the company, which said in 2012 that it wanted “fewer but larger” shops.

Group CEO Vittorio Colao said in May 2012 he wanted stores to be more focused on services than sales.

He said that while the size of some stores would increase, the number of locations would decrease.

Vittorio said: “I imagine there will be fewer (stores) but they will be bigger and more open with more services in them. There will be fewer walls full of handsets and many more areas for services, and hopefully more people in the shops.” (Full story here).

After these comments were made, Vodafone’s retail base was cut from around 400 to 354. Vodafone’s 357 stores serve 19 million customers. The reduction in store numbers brought it level with Three, which has 350 stores but far fewer customers at eight million active subscribers.

The number now stands at 537 – with stores in Ilford, Fulham and Perry Bar opened last week as part of the operator’s £100 million retail expansion – announced today (see here).

Vodafone will open 150 stores in total over the next 12 months. It will also relocate 78 stores and redesign 98 as part of its retail overhaul.

“The reduction in stores was down to duplication, as in a lot of places we had more than one store. Today is much more around making sure we have a presence in all areas. We have identified key postcodes where we need to open stores to be local to customers,” a Vodafone spokesperson said.

Vodafone head of retail Martin Roberts said: “We believe it is the right time now to return to Britain’s high street.”

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