Phones4u planned to 'soften its brand' with wearable tech

Phones4u had planned to become the UK's go-to retailer for wearable tech, before it went into administration.

Phones4u: planned to become go-to wearable tech retailer
Phones4u: planned to become go-to wearable tech retailer

Ben Padley became the company's marketing director last September to pioneer the Be.Smart initiative, a 10-store trial that would involve Phones4u staff educating consumers about the possibilities of wearable technology.

Speaking at the IPM Digital Disruption conference, Padley said Phones4u had identified wearable devices as the biggest mobile development since smartphones – and a gap in the market.

He said: "At Phones4u we had been trading for 18 years, and had seen smartphones as a pinnacle next step, then we saw wearables as the next big thing,.

"But if you saw something like a smartwatch or intelligent lightbulbs there was no real place to buy them. The empirical truth at the heart of it is that smartphones are key."

At Phones4u we had been trading for 18 years, and had seen smartphones as a pinnacle next step – then we saw wearables as the next big thing

Phones4u considered a trial around Christmas last year that would help consumers understand the possibilities of wearable tech for fitness, home living and family. 

Asked by Marketing whether Phones4u saw wearable tech as an opportunity to revive its stores, Padley said the brand was "not quite dead yet" and that Be.Smart was intended to "soften the brand" among consumers.

He said: "What we saw was an opportunity for wider appeal for customers to come to our stores.

"There is no destination in retail today for this [wearable tech] category and we saw that because we were experts in smartphones, and we were recognised that way, we had an authentic play to sell this range online and offline.

"We saw we could develop the brand in a different way, and soften the brand in terms of talking to families. There was a valid authentic reason to talk to customers in life...wearables enabled us to do that."

Phones4u went into administration last week and will shed thousands of jobs after administrators confirmed the closure of 362 stores. EE, Dixons Carphone and Vodafone have taken on 358 Phones4u outlets and sites between them, safeguarding some jobs.

The collapse of Phones4u leaves Dixons Carphone as the largest independent mobile phone retailer.