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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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  • Jon Wright

    Personally i think Apple should stay clear of CPW, 02 or any other company come to that.
    Financially i can see what Apple has to gain and understand the strategy behind it, but Apple are a bigger brand with a good reputation for customer service and quality products, which is more than you can say for O2 or CPW. It also has its own distribution channels to sell the iPhone which again, IMO, shouldn’t be sold with a contract or tied directly with another company. Leave that decision for the consumer to decide once they have purchased, just give them the option. They also run the risk of bad publicity for the reason’s you have pointed out.
    I think we’d all love an iPhone and i don’t think £269 is hefty price to pay for a gadget that basically does more than phone home. Look at the iPod Touch at £199 and how well that has sold.
    No the sticking point for me is that i already have a phone contract and would just love to be able to slot the card into the iPhone, rather than having to switch or ditch my current contract halfway through. I think that is the feeling of the vast majority of consumers and why the iPhone will not reach the steady sales heights of the iPod or iPod Touch…yet!!
    Personally i think Apple will change their strategy at some point in 2008 once they get a much better understanding of the Phone market here in Europe. Figures at this stage won’t mean a great deal to Apple, they probably don’t have a real figure on it anyway and just went in very low as they always seem to do when entering a new market. The aggressive price reduction of $200 dollars should remind us of how ruthless Apple can be when they want a product to succeed.
    I also wonder if the rumours of a CPW buyout will effect the long term strategy of the iPhone and its distribution.