Sprint Nextel is no newcomer to carrierowned stores, operating both the post-paid Sprint and prepaid Boost Mobile chains.
Joining the retail portfolio this summer is Sprint’s other prepaid brand, Virgin Mobile, which will have seven standalone stores, four kiosks and one in-line mall shop up and running throughout Chicagoland this week.
Unique among them, and to all CE formats, is Virgin Mobile’s new flagship store, located in Lincoln Park. Unlike its sister stores, the prototype flagship eschews the hi-tech look and product arrays that are typical of cellular shops, and instead embraces a twenty-something crash-pad esthetic, replete with couch, coffee table, floor rug, cushions, vinyl records and concert posters.
While the 1,650-foot boutique does have live demo models, arrayed across two butcher block tables, the store was designed to go “several dimensions beyond the key product sales,” Sprint spokeswoman Jayne Wallace explained.
“We’re not only selling smartphones, we’re creating a context for the smartphone culture,” she told TWICE. “Virgin is a lifestyle and wants to be unlike your other phone carriers … We want to create a new relationship between customers and phone providers, and this is one step toward changing the interaction from a traditional carrier store to one that ‘gets you,’ and wants to help you master the smartphone culture.”
To that end, the store’s “hosts” go beyond standard service and support to help customers discover how their phone and its apps can enhance their lives. “The handset is only as good as you’re able to make it work for you,” Wallace said.
Sprint plans to test all its Virgin Mobile formats throughout greater Chicago, its largest market, before slowly moving into additional regions across the country, where the stores will rub shoulders with traditional retail partners like Best Buy, RadioShack, Target and Walmart.
New locations won’t necessarily have the same loftlike ambiance as the flagship shop, Wallace said, although “We do hope to eventually move the stores a little closer to that vision.”