Back in 1985, Vodafone predicted that only a million mobile phones would be sold in the UK while BT’s projection was half of that.
Now, with the iPad arriving on UK shores, there are now around 4.5 billion handsets worldwide and an expected 50 billion by 2020. New figures from The Local Data Company, which monitors retail units by walking every street in over 700 town centres every six months using the latest wireless PDAs and digital cameras, shows UK mobile phone shops have increased to 4,329 at April 2010, up from 3,847 in April 2009, representing an increase in number of shops of 12.5%.
Carphone Warehouse continues to dominate with 812 stores nationally and has shown a slight increase over 2009. However, Orange expanded its retail units by 37.5%, growing from 306 to 407 units at the start of April 2010.
The increase in numbers has been modest in London and the Midlands, but well above average in Scotland (17%) the North West (20%), the East of England (19%) and Wales (51%).
Although central London boasts 216 stores, Leeds (43), Glasgow (49), Bristol (44) and Manchester (67) all have quite similar volumes.
Unlike other retail sectors, independents struggle for market share and only one in five shops nationally is not owned by a major chain.
Matthew Hopkinson, director at The Local Data Company, said: “Independents often suffer most from the intense web-based competition and we estimate that many operate brand franchises rather than set up under their own name. But there is also an extent to which independents and multiples offer different products. Chains dominate with contract phones and independents thrive off pay as you go phones and other services, like unlocking and repairs.”
Liz Peace, chief executive of the British Property Federation, said: “In some areas, it’s fair to say that people think phone shops are like pound stores in that they’re a bit of a plague. They do increase footfall in high streets, but for many other retailers it’s the wrong kind as many kids who go to play with new phones often won’t be buying much. But there is no denying that the continued success is down to our obsession with shopping, speaking and even share dealing on the move. Every time you think phones have reached their technological peak, something new comes along. The challenge with phone shops will be to do the same and to keep evolving if they are to keep consumers’ interest.”