The UK mobile industry has undergone more change in the last two years than it has in the past decade. 4G LTE networks are finally becoming a reality for the majority of smartphone users, and on the High Street things have changed as well. Towards the end of last year, Phones 4 U could no longer afford to pay its debt and stay competitive as big networks like Vodafone and EE removed their devices from shelves, and Carphone Warehouse and Dixons merged to become the Dixons Carphone Group. This means that there are less places on the High Street for customers to turn to try out devices, and hundreds of large PC World and Currys stores now contain a Carphone Warehouse inside of them as well. A new contender has entered the ring though, and one you might not immediately expect; John Lewis.
For the first time, John Lewis is to start selling smartphones inside their department stores, starting with two trials in Oxford Street in London and Cheadle Manchester. John Lewis already sells smartphones and devices online and in some stores, but this new approach is to be a dedicated affair, with stores-within-stores focusing on selling smartphones. To simplify things, John Lewis is said to be only offering two tariffs, and to give customers a sweeter deal they will be offering two-year warranties on all devices sold. To achieve this, John Lewis will partner with Vodafone, offering a tariff with low data at the low end and a more luxurious offering with lots of data and unlimited calls and texts. However, stores will be run by a combination of Vodafone and John Lewis employees and customers will be able to choose from any Vodafone tariff they want.
Jonathan Marsh, Buying Director for John Lewis said that "We've got a very strong technology business, and being able to offer customers mobile phones is important. We know from our website traffic and searches that customers are actively looking for mobiles from us, but it's important we go into this market in a John Lewis way"
Right now, the John Lewis website will start selling 25 unlocked devices, giving users choice of network, but the retail side of things is the more important part of this new endeavour. This is a big win for Vodafone as well, as the market becomes so full of devices that offer customers similar experiences, getting them into the hands of users will help sales and hopefully, bring some much needed competition back to the UK streets.