AT&T aims to increase its retail presence by nearly 20 percent this year. Among the more than 1,000 new store locations, 100 will be pop-ups and more than 150 will be mobile. As it expands its store base, the company said in a statement that in the wireless sector, “retail stores are bucking the losses seen in other industries. We’re getting closer and more convenient to make shopping easier for customers, whether you’re in a big city or a small town.”
Rasesh Patel, senior executive vice president of AT&T digital, retail and care business, said the goal is to improve the shopping experience. “We designed our new stores to get you in and out quickly while you’re on the go, so you can enjoy more of your thing,” Patel said in a statement.
Consumers may see AT&T pop-up stores appearing in some unorthodox, though terrifically convenient locations such as an apartment building, for example. Smaller outlets in dense urban environments make sense for a product that is literally designed to fit in a pocket, and the build-out is quick; the company says it expects to go from lease-signing to phone-selling within 60 days.
Adding to its existing fleet of mobile stores currently present in all their major markets, the company plans to have the 150 new units deployed by the end of this year. These can already be found at AT&T sponsored events, at the launch of new neighborhoods with AT&T Fiber, and in communities that have fallen victim to natural disasters and other emergencies. “It’s an amazing thing to watch,” Patel said, “in a time when everybody is fleeing the danger zone, AT&T is going in.”
The push to increase retail real estate seems to be motivated by the recent market share descent to number three after being outpaced this year by T-Mobile outlet openings, (Verizon Wireless holds the number-one spot) but the company’s emergency response mission is enabling the telecommunications giant to expand its network nationwide with “unprecedented capability,” according to Patel. The announcement of new stores comes with a heavy nod to last year’s partnering with FirstNet, securing an agreement with the federal government to serve first responders in all 50 states.
“And we plan to add hundreds of stores in smaller cities and towns across the country,” AT&T said. “As we invest in building FirstNet to serve first responders in these communities, we’re also going to build out new stores to better serve everyone who lives there.”
FirstNet reported subscriptions at the end of August at just over 2,500, but that was nearly double the number from July. Meanwhile, Verizon recently updated its data plans for first responders after a backlash against its throttling data service for California firefighters responding to wildfires there in August.
AT&T said its “customers purchase in one of our 5,300-plus branded stores, even though most also begin their shopping online.” The company is also working on a “full omnichannel experience,” to seamlessly meld those shopping transitions and meet consumers’ expectations.