back to article EE buys 58 Phones 4u stores for £2.5m after picking over carcass

EE has scooped up 58 Phones 4u stores from the beleaguered High Street retailer, one week after it slipped into administration. The mobile operator, which was partially blamed by Phones 4u for its surprise collapse, revealed the £2.5m purchase in a brief statement to The Register: We can confirm that we have agreed with the …

  1. Fullbeem

    Smash and grab

    Seems like a smash and grab by EE and Vodafone

    1. Steve Todd

      Re: Smash and grab

      What was the point of a company that had little margin for discounting and only sold phones on two of the four networks? Phones4U was well and truly shafted by its own management when they loaded the company down with debt.

      Why would EE continue selling them phones and airtime at a discount when they could sell the same package through their own store and make more money? P4U only made sense if they provided phones for all, or most of the networks and you could shop around.

      1. dotdavid

        Re: Smash and grab

        "Why would EE continue selling them phones and airtime at a discount when they could sell the same package through their own store and make more money? "

        Except they won't do that.Phones 4U and CPW often seemed to have better deals than the networks themselves for whatever reason. Now the networks won't have to compete with their own agents, which makes sense I guess, but you're deluding yourself if you believe that means they'll offer P4U/CPW-style discounts.

      2. Stretch

        Re: Smash and grab

        the point was the better customer service, independent advise, exclusive deals and prices and ACTUALLY HAVING COMPETITION.

        You forget, Steve, that EE's interests != Your interests. And if you say this is good for them then it is certainly not good for any of us.

        1. Steve Todd

          Re: Smash and grab

          EE would have been competing with its self. If P4U were selling contracts for the other 3 networks also then you would have had competition and it was about the best deal you could get. CPW still do that. When P4U lost O2 then the choice between Voda and EE limited that competition and made them less valuable. When Voda dropped their contract it would have made P4U an EE only outfit, your choice being buy from EE or P4U (with little or no discount). The cost of doing business with P4U became more than the business was worth.

          As it is the 4 networks still compete among themselves, and MVNO's fight for a slice. There are many phone stores available and CPW still offers the full choice of networks in one place. P4U has been the victim of its own management greed in that they left it little room to manoeuvre on prices, and that's what killed it.

          1. Vince

            Re: Smash and grab

            Actually I believe you'll find Carphone Warehouse doesn't offer anything to customers wanting 3. They don't offer all networks, 3 dropped them ages back.

            Clocks are ticking.

        2. Alan Brown Silver badge

          Re: Smash and grab

          "the point was the better customer service, independent advise, exclusive deals and prices and ACTUALLY HAVING COMPETITION."

          Except the customer service wasn't better, the advice wasn't independent, the prices weren't spectacular and the competition was in name only.

          1. Stretch

            Re: Smash and grab

            Was for me. You need to learn how to manipulate desperate sales assistants,

    2. big_D Silver badge

      Re: Smash and grab

      My first thought as well, force them into receivership, then buy up the stores cheap...

  2. Phil Endecott

    Re-opened within the week???

    That sounds like they had already ordered the new shop fittings!

    1. dotdavid

      They're just going to paint EE in front of the existing Phones 4U signs. EE customers are used to confusing branding nowadays, what with the multiple brands the company runs in parallel.

  3. cs94njw

    Those cheeky b*****s!

    Regardless of the validity of the business model, it doesn't seem right that a supplier can force a customer to close, and then buy up the customer for peanuts.

    1. Chad H.

      What Customers?

      P4U was an agent of EE and Vodaphone. They put customers together with EE/Voda contracts, making them an EE/Voda Customer.

      They had quite a bad reputation, and this ultimately gets knocked on to whichever network the Customer gets paired with. They got sick of their brand being tarnished by a bad customer experience.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        nahhhhhh

        P4U didn't have a bad reputation, if you want to see that look no further than EE!

        If you're bored and want a laugh for a while stroll on over the Facebook and take a look a EE's page and the 1000's of post's from fecked off EE victims, sorry customers

        1. Madmanwithabox

          Re: nahhhhhh

          This is likely the case on all operators pages - people rarely post in a utility companies social space unless they have a problem.

          Thus, all you see is complaints - as the page is used as a care channel.

          Most people don't bother telling an operator when they're happy and have no issues, so the important part is in seeing how their care/social team actually resolves problems, not that customers need help.

      2. zebthecat

        Rubbish

        EE and Vodafone need no outside help when it comes to brand reputation and Phones4u were certainly no worse.

        That phones4u did do, however, was offer a variety of handsets that the networks sometimes didn't carry themselves and (from my experience) undercut the carriers using a like for like comparison thus breaking the carrier cartel.

        Consumers will be poorer as this is another supply route cut off.

        1. madmalc

          I got my Galaxy Note 3 from Phones4U on a vodafone contract for £10 a month less than the vodafone shop wanted to charge me. We consistently got a much better in store service from Phones4U. I could never understand why anyone ever went in to the vodafone store that was 20 yards away.

  4. Fihart

    Looking on the bright side...

    Where EE already has a branch, that will be one less phone shop on the high street. Now, if we can just get rid of betting shops and estate agents, our shopping streets will be relatively scum-free, making space for something more useful.

    1. FartingHippo
      Stop

      Re: Looking on the bright side...

      Oh good, more charity shops paying no business rates and selling tat. Just what my high-street needs.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Looking on the bright side...

        @FartingHippo; to be fair, you might get lucky. You might get a generic popup "Gifts" shop (complete with cheap sign) selling generic tat such as large prints of Elvis, framed "Scarface" posters, inflatable novelties and other toss that no-one in their right mind would actually want as a "gift".

        *Someone* must be visiting these places (because I'm sure as hell not) and I feel sorry for their friends.

      2. NP-HARD
        Paris Hilton

        Re: Looking on the bright side...

        Nail bars, tanning shops. These are harbingers of a town's doom.

    2. Lamont Cranston
      Unhappy

      Re: "something more useful"

      In the case of my town, that'd be dummy shop fronts, in an effort to make the town look less deserted than it actually is.

      1. eJ2095

        Re: "something more useful"

        Get that here in sandwell

    3. Jedit

      "making space for something more useful"

      Like payday loan companies and cheque cashing bureaux? Letting agents and bookies aren't half as bad as those bastards.

      1. Danny 14 Silver badge

        Re: "making space for something more useful"

        I wouldn't know what shops are in town any more. I go to Carlisle once every 2 weeks with the kids to the library. I park on the 1 hour parking then leave pretty quickly. Last time we looked around town it was grim; costa, starbucks, phone shops, fake fronts and charity shops. Even the tat bazaars had closed down (although the *3x* game shops were still there). Since the council are now proposing to remove all free parking then it will be pretty much the same price to *BUY* books from ebay than park in town and use the library.

        Back to phone shops there was a three store, O2, (old T-Mobile EE), (old vodaphone) EE, CPW, P4U, Apple and two independents that also repaired/unlocked phones (and sold phone tat).

  5. Otto is a bear.

    Smart move

    Maybe the PE company had seen the writing on the wall for that retail model, and extracted it's investment making failure the banks problem and no its.

    I think if I were a Carphone Warehouse retail employee, I'd start getting worried about when the network starts on them, prior to moving to an internet only model, with a few flagship stores.

    Other news suggests that might well be Apple and Samsung stores.

    Mind you, at one time Electricity, Gas and Telephones all sold direct to the customer, and now, pretty much don't. So maybe Dixons and Carphone merging was the really smart move.

    1. Michael Strorm

      Re: Smart move

      "Maybe the PE company had seen the writing on the wall for that retail model, and extracted it's investment making failure the banks problem"

      Indeed. PE is well-known for taking over companies that go bankrupt shortly after yet still managing to come out with a healthy profit. Nothing strange or dubious about that. *cough*

      We discussed PE's modus operandi with relation to Phones 4U already:-

      http://forums.theregister.co.uk/forum/1/2014/09/18/phones4u_top_gear_tigers_and_bingo_boilers/#c_2303762

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Decline of the High Street ...

    I wonder if the one in the Kingfisher Centre in Redditch will be saved ? Mainly because watching that place is like looking into the future ... 33% of retail space is empty.

    I once had an idea to ring up the management company, pretending to be investing in a new venture combining greeting cards, mobile phones, shoes, and tat fashion, and see if they twigged I was taking the piss ...

    1. FunkyEric

      Re: Decline of the High Street ...

      A bit like the pound shop then?

    2. Oliver 7

      Re: Decline of the High Street ...

      "33% of retail space is empty."

      You'll probably find most of the closed outlets are owned by lawyers working on behalf of Tesco. When the footfall becomes low enough, in they come as a knight in shining armour with a redevelopment plan...

  7. Jim 59

    Decline of the high street

    ...is partly our fault for shopping at the mega Tesco 5 miles away, ordering our stuff from Amazon, and partly the councils' fault for charging exorbitant business rents.

    1. Alan Brown Silver badge

      Re: Decline of the high street

      "...is partly our fault "

      For not putting up with stupid parking restrictions and fees, voting with our wallets instead.

      The stupid ones are the high street retailers, not us.

      1. djack

        Re: Decline of the high street

        The high-street retailers are more of a victim of parking fees and restrictions. They (generally) don't want or enforce them and it's their customers who have the option of going elsewhere.

  8. Frogmelon

    Gorgonzolagate

    Here's a hypothetical situation:

    Farmer Giles and Farmer Jones both supply a 3rd party chain of shops with cheese "Cheese 4 U". "Cheese 4 U" sells cheese from multiple farmers. Farmers Giles and Jones also have their own chains of farm cheese shops, from which they sell their own cheese exclusively. Competition in the cheese market is healthy.

    Both farmers open up a channel of communication: "Hey, if we both agree to stop supplying our competitor with cheese, they'll have no choice but to close, and we can carve up their cheese re-selling business between us."

    "Hey, that does sound like a great idea. Isn't it anti-competitive though?"

    "Don't worry. We'll pull the plug on cheese supply first, then give it a couple of months and you can pull your supply of cheese. You can state that due to certain factors (obviously contributed to by our cessation of cheese supply, but you be creative there) you're also ceasing cheese supply to the company.

    It'll have no choice but to go belly up and we can move in for the kill!! The high-street cheese market will be ours for the taking and we can get rid of our competitor in the cheese supply market."

    "What about the competition watchdog?"

    "Don't worry about them, this will totally go under the radar. Nobody likes them anyway! It's a fool-proof plan! Do you fancy some cheese-on-toast?"

    :)

    1. Alan Brown Silver badge

      Re: Gorgonzolagate

      That would be cartel behaviour, which is illegal.

      The hard part is proving it, so best make sure there's no audit trail.

      Golf course conversations and handshakes on the green it is....

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Gorgonzolagate

      However Farmer Giles' and Farmer Jones' stores have samples of the cheese that you can taste, whereas Cheese 4 U only had plastic models of the cheese, which smelt of nothing, had no texture and most definaitely couldn't be tasted.

  9. banjomike
    Thumb Up

    No surprise...

    As already said here

    http://forums.theregister.co.uk/forum/1/2014/09/20/vodafone_scoops_up_140_phones_4u_stores_from_troubled_retailer/#c_2305332

  10. Małopolska

    Take control

    Having spent three months recently battling to get an iPhone unlocked on T-Mobile (EE) my advice is to buy your own unlocked device outright, then get a SIM for it separately and don't tie yourself into a long contract. Not only is it cheaper overall to do it this way, it's easy to get a PAK code if you want one and go elsewhere. It saves any futile rantings on an operator's Facebook page.

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