Wireless brands in big box retail stores like Best Buy are so prevalent that their presence is often taken for granted, but T-Mobile is expanding its brand like never before, and just in time for the holidays.
Last month, T-Mobile said it has expanded availability at more than 900 Best Buy stores nationwide. On the same day, he announced that his prepaid brand, Metro by T-Mobile, had launched in more than 2,300 Walmart stores nationwide, bringing new deals to savvy shoppers.
T-Mobile followed up on this last week with a press release touting its new exclusive offers on smartphones, including the latest 5G phones, in thousands of Walmart stores across the country, with some devices selling under 150. $.
What is the problem? The question was raised during T-Mobile’s third quarter earnings call. Specifically, T-Mobile management has been asked to comment on these channels that drive fourth quarter 2021 growth and future growth compared to past years.
“We’re incredibly excited about this,” said Jon Freier, President of the Consumer Group at T-Mobile. “I think when you look at what Walmart did and what Best Buy did during the pandemic and how they completely revolutionized their particular businesses… Walmart is the place to go shopping in rural America. It’s amazing what Walmart has done, ”including with its digital transformation.
When you think of Best Buy as one of the leading consumer electronics retailers in the United States, “these are great opportunities for us,” he said. “You also have to remember that we haven’t really played in national retail, in these national retailers, in a very long time. In fact, in the last quarter alone, with these announcements we quadrupled our number of national outlets. So we see this as great opportunities for our business to be in Walmart and Best Buy customer bases and we also see significant opportunities for change in those spaces. “
Obviously, “they are drawn to the best 5G network in the industry and all of the opportunities our business represents over the next few years,” he added. Freier said he did not have specific numbers by channel for the fourth quarter or subsequent years, but “we are very optimistic about these opportunities. We have excellent strategic relationships with Walmart and Best Buy. We have been engaged in many conversations over the past few months’ and confident in the approach there.
According to Wave7 Research, T-Mobile has been available at Best Buy for months and most of the branding nowadays at Best Buy is for T-Mobile, with some branding Sprint in a minority of stores last month.
Jeff Moore, director of Wave7, said it’s possible T-Mobile may have fixed some back office issues that were preventing certain types of activations, and that’s why the hubbub is happening now. But when it comes to its presence in stores, “this is something that has happened before,” he said.
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“This is integral to their expansion of growth into rural markets,” said William Ho, senior analyst at 556 Ventures.
Corporate wireless stores need to buy or lease a location and staff it – which they can avoid by going to big box retailers. “If you already have Best Buy or Walmart in the areas where you’re looking to grow, it’s like renting versus buying. It’s an effective way to increase your distribution numbers to get the gross additions, ”Ho said.
In his third quarter earnings call on Thursday, UScellular President and CEO Laurent Therivel was asked what his company sees of T-Mobile and these big box retailers in rural markets and smaller where UScellular competes.
“We don’t see a major change there,” Therivel said. “I think so far we continue to compete well with T-Mobile. I think from a distro perspective, I think they’re trying to figure out a way to create a distro without necessarily having to build it themselves, and that’s a tough value proposition. We’re happy with our distribution network, our company-owned stores, our dealer stores, and some of the partnerships you’re talking about. We have good distribution coverage in rural America that complements the strong network. So far at least, we haven’t seen a significant increase in earnings share or subscriber effect over what T-Mobile has done.