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John Ryan

Saying Goodbye to the Wall of Phones

Phone shops are morphing into something else and they’re not really about handsets, at least not much

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REMEMBER THE “wall of phones”? Of course you do! This was a major part of every phone shop you went into, and it was simply a matter of visually scanning the handsets and making a selection, prior to parting with cash.

Then we all stopped upgrading every time a new contract was offered and the number of handsets being shifted went into sharp decline. The outcome of this was that phone shops became mobile service outposts: places where you could learn about what your phone can do, browse similar devices and maybe have a cup of coffee.

The phone shop morphed into something else and for an example of this at its most extreme, the newly opened EE flagship store in London’s eponymous Westfield London shopping mall is a case in point. Shoppers can certainly buy a handset here if they want to, but they can also enter the “digital spa,” a place where you can learn how to balance your digital obsession with the real world, relax on some very comfy mid-shop sofas or, yes, have a cup of coffee in an environment that feels more like a shared workspace than the phone shop of old.

Also worth mentioning, as far as this store is concerned, is the rise and rise of gaming and this, naturally, forms part of the offer with a large part of the space devoted to (digital) playtime.

In total then, this may be the offspring of a phone shop, but it is several generations down the line and such is the pace of the sector’s evolution that it is quite hard to see where it has come from. One thing is certain, this is a staging post, and shoppers should expect this kind of experience-led environment to be more and more the norm when thinking about the world of digital. It’s also a lot more fun than looking at endless variations of a handset theme.

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