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In-store smartphone sales rise as lockdown restrictions ease

iPhone 12
(Image credit: Future)

The relaxation of Covid-19 related restrictions is driving a revival in in-store smartphone sales according to figures from Kantar, which also show that 5G is an increasingly important factor in consumer purchases.

Like many other businesses, electronic retailers and mobile operator stores were forced to close during the early stages of the pandemic in 2020, with many only re-opening their doors once government lockdown and social distancing measures were eased.

As a result, smartphone sales shifted to retailer’s online channels and online specialists. However, the closure of physical stores was one of several key factors that saw the mobile phone market contract last year.

Smartphone sales

Kantar says the proportion of in-store sales versus other channels grew by at least 10 percentage points in the US and most key European markets in the second quarter of 2021. In the UK, the figure was 13 points quarter-on-quarter, and the US recorded a 7-point increase.

“As Covid-19 vaccinations continue to roll-out, and businesses open with reduced restrictions, more consumers are high-street shopping,” said Jennifer Chan, Insight Director for Kantar, who explained different kinds of shoppers exhibited different behaviours.

For example, in-store shoppers are more likely to hold onto their device for as long as possible and prefer to buy brands they are familiar with when compared to online customers. Unsurprisingly, the former group are also more likely to want someone to show them how to use their device – something that is far easier in store.

In the UK, all four major operators have made adjustments to their stores to make them as safe as possible for returning customers.

Kantar also noted that 5G is becoming a much more important driver in new handset sales.

Operating market share is fairly stable in Europe and Australia, however iOS was able to increase its share of the American and Chinese markets by two percentage points, while Japan – traditionally a strong market for Apple – saw Android increase its share by five points thanks to strong performances from Oppo and Sharp.

Steve McCaskill is TechRadar Pro's resident mobile industry expert, covering all aspects of the UK and global news, from operators to service providers and everything in between. He is a former editor of Silicon UK and journalist with over a decade's experience in the technology industry, writing about technology, in particular, telecoms, mobile and sports tech, sports, video games and media.