Virgin Mobile USA Opening Retail Stores in Chicago to Support iPhone Launch
As noted by Bloomberg Businessweek, Virgin Mobile is seeking to capitalize on the publicity generated by the iPhone to remake itself as a major player in the market, in part by opening its first ten retail stores in Chicago to coincide with the iPhone launch. Should the stores prove successful, the carrier would seek to expand the initiative nationwide.
The new stores also mark a strategy shift for Virgin, which has previously relied on retailers such as RadioShack Corp. and Best Buy Co. to market its service, said Jeff Auman, a vice president at the carrier.
Pay-as-you-go companies, which let customers get mobile- phone service without credit checks and long-term contracts, are trying to reinvigorate the market by offering the iPhone and other popular smartphones. The industry has seen its growth slow in recent years, hurt by major carriers rolling out better phones and more flexible payment plans.
Sprint CEO Dan Hesse indicates that he expects "the iPhone will do very well on Virgin" based on pre-orders of the device so far, and giving customers dedicated retail stores for purchase and support could help extend the brand that has already found a loyal following among prepaid phone users.
Virgin is the second U.S. prepaid carrier to launch the iPhone, following Leap Wireless, which launched the device through its Cricket brand last weekend. Leap has declined to disclose iPhone sales so far, but its move to add the iPhone has certainly brought the carrier significant publicity.
According to today's report, MetroPCS may also add the iPhone to its lineup once Apple launches an LTE-compatible model, which is expected later this year. MetroPCS carrier Tom Keys acknowledge that the carrier has had talks with Apple about the iPhone and would "certainly be interested" once LTE is included.