Following a speedy rebranding and overhaul of its T-Mobile and Orange retail subsidiaries, UK operator EE has confirmed that as part of a recent review, it will close 78 (or 11 percent) of its 700 retail stores by the end of April, Mobile News reports.
Converting all T-Mobile, Orange and Everything Everywhere stores to new EE outlets from October 2012 onwards (costing a reported £50 million), the UK’s first 4G operator found itself with instances where two or more of it stores were located on the same high street, sometimes next door to each other.
EE employees are currently engaged in a consultation process, with the first stores closing in February. As Mobile News points out, it will leave EE with 626 stores, which will become the third biggest presence on the high street, behind Carphone Warehouse with 800 outlets, and Phones 4U with 680.
However, it will still lead its carrier rivals, with O2 operating 464 stores, Vodafone 350 and Three with 349.
The operator says that most of its front line staff will not lose their jobs, instead they will be moved to nearby stores, which it believes will “boost service levels significantly.” However, while managers will also be redeployed, limitations on the number of management positions inside stores may hinder relocation plans.
An EE spokesperson said: “Following the successful launch of EE, and the rebranding of former Orange and T-Mobile stores last year, we are determined to maintain momentum, and continue to drive growth. Consequently we have reviewed our retail estate to improve the service our customers are receiving on the high street.
“As part of this, where we have two EE stores in very close proximity to each other – in some places they are just a door away – we have decided to consolidate. This makes commercial sense and will also help us manage the high levels of demand in our stores and improve the customer experience.”
Currently, EE is the only UK carrier to offer 4G services in the UK. But with the Ofcom 4G spectrum auction due to begin later this month, the company will soon find itself competing with O2, Vodafone and Three (and four other companies) for customers wishing to connect their new smartphones and tablets to a super-fast LTE network.