Early in 2004, My Naytencourt business bought an online mobile phone business called Ewell Mobile along with some other businesses. It sold all the latest mobile phones and accessories and built a good name itself. Pre large scale social media it did a lot of business on Ecademy which was an early but excellent business networking website and far better than Facebook or Linkedin ever have been for business.
via Naytencourt I sold this and bought themobilefonenetwork in late 2004. This would be my mobile phone brand until 2016. At this time we had some of the best years of the mobile phone trade. Customers were really happy to want the latest handsets and we still 12 month contracts with free handsets. Manufacturers couldn’t bring out new handsets with new features fast enough. We also had fantastic deals with cashback and free gifts such as laptops, games consoles and mp3 players. The networks were all gagging for business and “pulling a switcheroo” often yielded better things than it does now, though even today you should still look around at every renewal.
The only thing we couldn’t beat were T-mobile to T-mobile upgrades where the best thing to do was go direct. My advice to customers on T-mobile was to make sure you found a female member of staff and gently flirt with her! – it worked more often than not and many prospective customers I told this to became customers on other networks when T-mobile got wise and made moves to stop this working.
The market started slowing up in 2008 because of the credit crunch and this hit approvals for new contracts but things would get really bad in November and December 2009. You see we were still giving away these magnificent gifts, many of which children wanted to see awaiting their possession under the Christmas tree on Christmas morning 2009. With these gifts costing hundreds of pounds, lots of cash-strapped parents were trying to sign up for mobile phone contracts to get the gifts to give their kids as Christmas presents. They were getting rejected by the credit reference agencies. In November and December 2009 combined I had over 2,100 applications for mobile phone contracts rejected. Bearing in mind the commission from the operators for each sale varied from between £3 and £50 this is a lot of money! The number of approvals was only in double figures and not very high at all.
In a way, this was the beginning of a long end. The Apple iPhone had just arrived as had the Samsung Galaxy. We would start to see the demise of some manufacturers. Motorola wasn’t really there but would revive in a few years. The Nokia decline had started and was in full flow. Blackberry were on the way out too. The long-running social debate of Apple versus Android had started and this will never stop. My views on this will change either! There is a place in every home for an Apple device. It is called the bin!
Commissions were getting lower. 18 month contracts were standard and 2 year contracts were optional. Free gifts were almost dead as was cashback. Around 2013 the way of charging for mobile phones changed and it effectively became two things. A bill for the mobile phone usage – (calls and data) and a finance agreement for the phone handset. This would yield some extra profit for the networks and I was once told a story by a finance guy that there were certain tax advantages for the networks of doing the bills this way. I am not sure how true this story is.
Anyway combined with this were the rising costs of running the business so in early 2016 I sold my mobile phone business. I enjoyed my time in the trade. I was both happy and proud to be a part of the industry and share in some of its best years.