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Carphone Warehouse brand disappears after 30 years on the high street

Carphone Warehouse has disappeared from the UK high street as part of a major, although admittedly none-too-creative, rebrand by its parent company.

Dixons Carphone, as it was then known, announced the rebrand in May, talking up the merger of four fairly big names in the UK consumer tech space into a single brand. “Currys PC World, Carphone Warehouse, Team Knowhow and Dixons Carphone become one brand,” the firm declared. The whole thing became a little less exciting when it explained that the new brand would be…wait for it…Currys.

The company said the change would take effect in October, and now it has, with the launch of a new ad campaign to promote the Currys brand.

Putting aside the wisdom of reintroducing a brand that much of the company’s target market remembers as an old-school retailer of household electronic items and white goods, there is an implication for the mobile technology space here, because it marks the demise of a well-known name in mobile phone retail. And more than that, it sparks debate about how big a market there really is for in-person mobile device sales in a world where the best deals are usually found online.

Currys new campaign is all about personal service. It hangs its entire identity on the concept of face-to-face discussions – something that have become a rarity since the arrival of Covid-19 – between customers and technology experts. “Speak to the experts at Currys,” the firm advises, be it in-store or via Internet and phone channels.

People waste hours online researching, combing through an endless choice of products, and navigating fake reviews, Currys said, noting that this is a major bugbear for shoppers. Further, it shared data that claims 58% of people shopping for pricey and unfamiliar tech products would like to speak to a real person before pushing the ‘buy’ button or handing over a credit card in store.

That may well be the case, but how many of those people would be willing to pay more for a device in exchange for in-person advice? How many use a retail outlet to get a feel for the products, then buy elsewhere with a cheaper price tag? Doubtless, this is a question Currys and its various former brands have long wrestled with, and on some level the maths must stack up. But the fact remains the company is investing pretty heavily in the ‘in-person’ concept.

When it announced the rebrand earlier this year, Curry’s said it would come alongside £190 million worth of investment. Looking a bit closer, it seems much of that will be swallowed up in the rebrand itself – store décor, staff uniforms, that sort of thing. Employee skills are just a part of it. Nonetheless, it’s a lot of money to spend at a tricky time for the high street, to put it mildly.

Carphone Warehouse was a fairly aspirational brand when it launched in the late 1980s, but fairly quickly became one of many mobile phone retailers in the town centre, whose name bore little resemblance to what it actually sold. It remained a well-known name, despite the demise of the carphone, and is still packaging up mobile devices, accessories and tariffs for customers who don’t want to do it all themselves.

Those customers still exist, but surely there are fewer of them now. And how many of them will think to turn to a washing machine retailer from the ’70s for their new smartphone. The new advertising campaign is going to have to be good.


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