Carphone Warehouse, the biggest mobile phone and accessories retailer through physical stores in the UK, hasn't been selected by Apple to sell the up-coming and much anticipated Apple Watch which will be available for purchases come April 24.
Having sold its iPhones and iPads through the retailer previously, Apple is taking a different route this time, preferring high-end and exclusive outlets to sell the Apple Watch. For instance, Selfridges' stores will promote the premium Apple Watch Edition through window displays during the initial days of the release. Rumour has it that Best Buy is also set to get the snub when the Watch hits stores on April 24.
The selective points of sale indicate that Apple perhaps intends to sell the Watch as a premium product in line with jewellery and high-end electronics. Talks are currently on with fashion retailer Nordstrom for the latter to retail the Apple Watch at the time of release while Apple is busy building its own exclusive Apple Watch shops at luxury department stores in Paris, London and Japan.
The move by the Cupertino giant is a major blow for Carphone Warehouse and its customer base. With 800 outlets across the country, it has been a major player in the mobile phone market for years, and boosted its domination with a £3.8bn merger with Dixons last year.
However, things have taken a turn for the worse over the past couple of years. Mobile operators have begun selling mobile phones directly to customers with minutes, text and data bundles that are customizable and very convenient for buyers. BT's takeover of EE and a possible merger of Three and O2 since Hutchison took over the latter could increase direct selling of fixed line and pay-TV services as well.
Sitting pretty on a fickle customer base won't help much, as was revealed when Phones4U shut down last year, signaling a turbid future for physical retailers.
Carphone Warehouse is hence diversifying its business towards a “build your own tariff” service that will enable customers to create their own texts, minutes and data packages as against fixed packages offered by mobile operators.
Graham Stapleton, chief executive of Carphone Warehouse, said, “We would love to be able to stock the Apple Watch. I’ve got to be careful what I say but I think they are just going another way with it. We have not been given the opportunity.”
He is not giving up just yet, expecting the Apple Watch to be available for his firm to retail once the product stabilizes in the market a few months from now. Currently, wearable devices from Sony, Samsung, LG and Motorola are available for purchase through Carphone Warehouse.