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Carphone Warehouse to open franchise Apple stores?

A little intriguing snippet from Guy Kewney over the future of Carphone Warehouse in the UK, as well as some info on iPhone sales. According to Guy’s story “CPW looking to Apple Store franchise…“:

“Other (probably more sensible!) rumours about CPW suggest that the Apple link may well be behind the share price rise; but not because of “strong sales” – rather, because of shrewd guesses about an Apple Store franchise for Charles Dunstone’s company. “

CPW would be an interesting choice for what would be the first real Apple franchise stores in the world, given the company’s less than stellar reputation for customer service and the reports prior to Christmas that some of its sales people were misleading customers over the need for insurance with the iPhone.

One thing that makes the idea a little more credible, though, is that there’s a history in the UK of what amounted to Apple franchised stores: Apple Centres. The concept of the Apple Centre, which originated in the UK, was of a high-quality store, heavily Apple branded, with well-trained staff who really knew their Macs – kind of an “Apple Store Lite”. They were, however, independent companies. Could it be possible that Apple is going to resurrect the Apple Centre concept, updating it to follow the mould of the Apple Stores?

Another interesting point from Guy’s story: sales of the iPhone have, alas, been less than spectacular, with Carphone Warehouse sources giving a figure of typical stores selling only one phone per week after launch, shifting up to a phone a day in the run up to Christmas. Citing a Mobile Today story:

“Most stores are believed to have missed iPhone targets by some distance, with a typical-sized O2 store selling just one iPhone per week. However, that appeared to change in the final seven days, with O2 staff reporting a big upturn, with many stores selling one per day, and even more in large city centre stores.

One O2 source said: ‘It seemed like people started buying them even if they were already in a contract, especially as they realised they wouldn’t start being billed until they registered online.’”

I certainly wouldn’t be surprised if iPhone sales in the UK were low, although I suspect that Apple’s targets for the market weren’t exactly enormous either. Apple is undoubtedly aware that the UK phone market is not the same as the US one, and that at £269 with not-great tariffs, the iPhone looks like a winner only to the already-converted Apple fans, or those (like me) who use data services a lot.

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