This could be big, and should be interesting at the least. British "retail phenomenon" Carphone Warehouse is coming to America. The purveyor of mobile handsets and services who's grown from startup to 2,300 outlet chain in less than two decades will roll out almost 1,000 stores in the U.S. starting this year, according to a Business Week article. Electronics retailer Best Buy owns a 3% stake in Carphone Warehouse and will host some of the CW outposts as "store within a store" boutiques inside of existing BB locations.
Carphone Warehouse made it big across the pond by offering handsets and services from a variety of carriers and manufacturers without affiliating themselves with any of them. As such, they enabled consumers to directly compare phones and rate plans before making a purchase. The model quickly became a hit with customers and also encouraged competition amongst network operators. CW then launched its own branded line of telecom services, and became known for its customer service and consumer education initiatives.
Look for CW outposts in Best Buy stores and in stand-alone locations later this year. And their offerings may not be limited to cell phones for long ? in the UK, Carphone Warehouse now offers broadband internet access, as well, and is making a business out of offering the kinds of promotions that would have consumers here in the States lining up to sign on. While AT&T and Comcast in the US offer a free modem with DSL or Cable internet service, Carphone is offering its British customers a free laptop with a premium broadband service.
Despite the weakening U.S. economy, this could turn out to be a good Summer for telecom consumers...