Chrisse Mayers, managing director at Border Mobiles:
The customer who wants leading edge technology is prepared to put up with small software issues as long as manufacturers can repair these faults quite simply, maybe via handset updates. All manufacturers need to make this available as every handset user uses their equipment differently. This type of customer realises this is what happens, and are quite happy to accept it.
The handset manufacturers need to test the second type of customers’ handsets further, possibly even just re-housing tried and tested solid handsets to update them. For example, the Nokia 6230i became a solid, reliable handset by its end of manufacture. For the customer who is looking for that type of handset, why not use the same internal workings and software in a re-vamped casing? The customers would be happy with the reliability without realising the technology was slightly dated, again increasing customer confi dence.
As for those who want simplicity alongside reliability, the revamped version would work every time. I still see customers using handsets that are six or seven years old, often just needing replacement batteries or housings to freshen them up. These handsets just keep on going and their users are happy, and unlikely to want to change manufacturer in the event of theirs actually failing. However they will if their handsets parts are not reliable.
Towards the end of last year many companies were experiencing a diffi cult time, with many retailers claiming a poor sales quarter. With the emergence of ongoing revenue from a number of network operators, and more convergence taking place in the industry, is it likely that some distributors will merge or be taken over? Is the market gearing toward the larger retailer, rather than the small independent who may not be fi nancially strong enough to survive the credit crunch?
Mayers, Border Mobiles:
I don’t see distributors merging; more likely survival of the fi ttest. But I would not be surprised to see any of them go, mainly due to network pressure and the fact that the networks do want to deal directly with customers. I do think the market is gearing toward the larger retailer with the assumption that they are in a fi nancial stronger position. However the larger the company the higher the overheads have to be, which would then place the smaller independent in a like for like environment at an advantage.
As we have seen with the fall of Woolworths, larger companies are given more credit by suppliers, so I would say those whose overheads are low and who don’t have large debts stand a reasonable chance of seeing the credit crunch through, but they will all have to diversify and go the extra mile for their customers.
I see the networks tightening up on their credit checking, possibly requesting deposits from more customers or being more choosy as to who they accept, something which can only be good and maybe bring value back to the industry.
I have seen a shift in customers now not wanting to commit to long term contracts in favour of SIM-only deals. Maybe this is the time when the networks can take advantage of these types of deal and bring back the handset charge, injecting real value into commitment for the customers, and maybe even a time for the networks to talk to dealers to see what the customers need during this time, reducing the risk of loss to the network, distributor and seller.
Ratansi, WAP-D, Fones U Like:
I see a lot of dealers closing down, this year especially if they rely solely on mobile phone connections. Disties like Ingram Micro and Brightstar will start to look like the model companies, offering a mix of both IT and telecoms. This is very important especially as consumers are becoming very tech savvy, with data products used more on a daily basis than ever before.
The buzz word for the year will be convergence. Dealers offering both data and telecoms may fi nd the year not as demanding as those who do not. The current economic climate will really work its wicked magic on small business this year; with so many big retailers already closing down in the fi rst week of January, the next 50 weeks look very scary indeed.
This leads me to retentions. This is my biggest bug bear of the whole mobile phone industry. The networks offering silly deals to retain customers will hurt the dealers a lot. This approach by the networks might make it hard for us to get new customers or even upgrade old ones. If however we can retain the customers with similar packages as offered by the networks directly, then we may have a chance of survival.
The IMPDA (Independent Mobile Phone Dealers Association) is open to all UK dealers and distributors. The aim of the IMPDA is to achieve a level playing fi eld for its members, and to champion quality improvements in the industry for a better future. If you would like to join the IMPDA then simply email firstname.lastname@example.org. If you have a concern or story then either email admin@ impda.co.uk or call 0844 884 9702.
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