Sainsbury’s is to end its Phone Shop store in stores, citing the Argos acquisition and a ‘commercial review’ of its retail portfolio as the reason. The move puts 160 retail roles and 15 HQ roles at risk of redundancy, though the company has stated it is attempted to find new roles for those affected.
Sainsbury’s ended its second attempt at an MVNO in January 2016 after failing to get the numbers required to make the Vodafone based offering viable commercially, though it continued to operate mobile stores inside its larger retail outlets, selling EE, O2, Three and Vodafone SIMs on PAYM, PAYG and SIM only deals on devices by manufacturers including Sasmung, Apple, Alcatel, Sony and Doro.
EE is understood to be taking over some of the stores, following existing relationships between the network and Sainsbury’s’ owners, Home Retail Group. A statement from the operator reads, ‘Following a successful trial of EE concessions in a number of Argos stores in 2015 & 2016, EE is extending its partnership with Argos and J Sainsbury plc to open concessions in 16 Sainsbury’s locations this summer. EE has more than 550 stores and these additional locations will help provide a more localised and personal service to even more of our customers across the UK.’
EE’s takeover of 16 stores still leaves another 22 to be closed completely. It is unclear whether staff from the 16 stores are included in the space acquisition.
A statement from Sainsbury’s describes their reasoning for the store closures stating, ‘Our business is going through a significant period of change and growth, most notably with the recent acquisition of Home Retail Group,” a Sainsbury's spokesperson stated.
‘While a number of Argos outlets have been relocated within our stores, we’ve also carried out a commercial review of the other in-store services we provide.
‘Following this review, we have now agreed a commercial partnership with EE who will take over a number of Phone Shop by Sainsbury’s.’
It continued, ‘We are now consulting with all affected colleagues and will look to redeploy them where possible.’
Retail union Usdaw’s Joanne McGuiness told the Retail Gazette ‘Since the company closed their Mobile by Sainsbury’s service in January 2016, we and the staff were aware that they were looking at options and that review has resulted in a new partnership with EE
'We will now enter into consultation talks with Sainsbury’s, starting Monday for at least 45 days, where we will be looking at the business case for this proposal.;
Though Sainsbury’s has suffered far worse than the other supermarket MVNOs, both ASDA Mobile and Tesco Mobile have had their issues. Tesco Mobile stopped offering airtime on other networks in late 2015, a move which corresponded to their famous budget black hole which saw them drop popular offerings like their Hudl tablets and sell off content assets such as blinkbox. ASDA meanwhile has suffered the fate of many EE based MVNOs, in that it only received 4G access earlier this year, despite EE being the first network to rollout 4G in 2012.