By Lisa Johnston
New products on display at the American International Toy Fair, held in N
LAS VEGAS — Jennifer Lopez and MVNO TracFone Wireless don’t have a lot in common except for their separate plans to open wireless retail stores.
During the CTIA convention, Lopez announced plans to extend her brand to wireless retailing with the launch of stores called Viva Movil by Jennifer Lopez.
For its part, no-contract MVNO TracFone Wireless, whose subscriber base rose to 23.2 million at the end of the first quarter, outlined its strategy of further expanding its subscriber base by establishing retail stores that exclusively sell its prepaid brands.
During a press conference, Lopez explained that Viva Movil’s brick-and-mortar stores and web store at GetViva.com are targeted directly to the shopping preferences of the growing Hispanic population.
Viva Movil will exclusively sell Verizon Wireless phones and service as well as Lopez-designed accessories.
The company is the first in the wireless industry to enable consumers to buy phones and service through Facebook, enabling users to shop with friends and share information about the products and services they buy, she added. “Latinos love social networking,” Lopez said, calling the Facebook capability a venture in “social commerce.”
Lopez is majority owner of the venture. The two other shareholders are Brightstar, the distribution and services company, and Moorehead Communications, Verizon Wireless’ largest Verizon-exclusive retailer by store count with more than 850 stores operating under the Cellular Connection name in 28 states. Verizon does not have an ownership stake in Viva Movil.
Moorehead’s role is to find store locations, set up and maintain operations, hire staff, and acquire products through Brightstar, Moorehead president/ CEO Scott Moorhead told TWICE. Brightstar is the largest Latino-owned company in the U.S., Lopez said during the press conference.
The first Viva Movil brick-and-mortar store will open June 15 somewhere in New York City. The company plans to end the year with 15 stores in places such as Los Angeles and Miami. GetViva.com and the company’s Facebook page are already live.
To target the growing Latino population, the stores will hire only bilingual salespeople, and it will set aside play areas for children because shopping is often a family affair for Latinos, Lopez said. The website is also bilingual.
Latinos also want great value and the ability to test drive products, so the company will deliver great value with the latest Verizon LTE handsets, and it will display products that people can use in store to test out, she continued. In the children’s area, Moorehead said, the stores will have toys and tablets running kid’s games.
As the company’s chief creative officer, Lopez played a role in designing the stores. “She is a partner, not a paid celebrity endorser,” said Brightstar chairman/CEO Marcelo Claure of Lopez’s role.
The stores will carry devices from existing handset vendors but might consider carrying store-brand handsets, said Claure. Likewise, the stores will offer Verizon’s current service plans, but Verizon Wireless EVP/COO Marni Walden said Verizon might offer unique content and applications for devices sold by the retailer in the future.
For its part, Miami-based TracFone Wireless told TWICE during the show that it is working with master agents to set up retail locations owned and operated by independent parties. The stores go by the name Simple Mobile Solutions.
TracFone, which owns the store name and provides the store buildout, has already set up five stores in New York City and five in Miami but plans to launch up to 30 more by year’s end and expand beyond that in 2014, said Tim Garrett, regional senior VP for indirect-channel marketing.
Stores will be located to fill in gaps between the locations of retailers that sell TracFone-owned brands, Garrett explained. The stores will be located “a reasonable distance” from TracFone’s existing retail accounts in locations where the competition consists of carrier stores, he explained.
The stores will enable consumers “to see all the brands the way we see them,” provide focused support for TracFone brands, and enable subscribers to go to a physical location for support instead of calling or emailing customer service, he added.
The five TracFone brands sold in the stores are TracFone, Telcel America, Simple Mobile, Net 10 and Safe Link Wireless brands. TracFone also offers Straight Talk no-contract service, but it is available exclusively through Walmart.
At the CTIA convention, TracFone built a booth that looked like the interior of one of its stores with displays for each of the five brands.
The MVNO is the nation’s largest nocontract MVNO and fifth largest cellularservice provider by subscriber base, COO Paul Kozma said.
This TWICE webinar, hosted by senior editor Alan Wolf, will take a look at what may be the hottest CE products at retail that will be sold during the all-important fourth quarter. Top technologies, market strategies and industry trends will be discussed with industry analysts and executives.