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Cricket Wireless Jumps Into Best Buy, Aaron’s Stores

Prepaid cellular-service provider Cricket Wireless continues to expand its retail distribution with the announcement that 1,300 Best Buy locations and almost 2,000 Aaron’s lease-to-own locations will carry the provider’s phones and services.

Cricket’s phones and plans will return to Best Buy stores and in the next two weeks, returning after an absence of almost four years. Cricket products will appear in Aaron’s stores and Aaron’s web site for the first time over the next three months.

The launch will bring Cricket’s phones to more than 12,000 outlets in the U.S. Cricket’s retail outlets include 2,800 GameStop stores; almost 4,000 Cricket-brand stores, most of them operated by independent retailers; 1,000 Walmart stores,  and 1,600 Target stores. Cricket is also sold through Amazon and the web sites operated by independent retailers, Cricket-owned stores, Walmart stores and Amazon.

In 2015, the company expanded its distribution by more than 5,000 outlets, Cricket president John Dwyer told TWICE. With the Best Buy and Aaron’s announcements, plus additional Cricket stores that opened so far this year, Cricket products will be available in more than 3,000 more outlets to bring the store count to almost 4,000 Cricket stores and 8,000 national retail outlets, he said.

Cricket launched into a retail expansion program soon after it was purchased by AT&T in early 2014 and became an AT&T subsidiary. Cricket operated its own CDMA network in 65 markets and resold Sprint service under its own brand in other markets. Cricket then refreshed its brand with new plans and phones operating on AT&T’s LTE network.

For Best Buy, the latest announcement marks Cricket’s return to the chain.  Before Cricket was owned by AT&T, Cricket sold through such national retailers as Kmart, Dollar General, Target, Amazon, Best Buy, Walmart, and RadioShack, but Cricket pulled out of most national retailers in 2012 because it was ailing financially.

For Aaron’s, the announcement marks Cricket’s first appearance in the lease-to-own retailer of furniture, consumer electronics, home appliances and accessories. Aaron’s has more than 2,000 company-operated and franchised stores in 47 states and Canada. The chain also sells other brands of cellular service.

Expansion beginnings: Under AT&T ownership, Cricket began rebuilding its distribution, first with the September 2014 announcement that it would become the exclusive cellular provider in 2,800 of GameStop’s 4,200 stores. At the time, Cricket was also available in 3,000 Cricket-branded stores.

In October 2014, Cricket brought its new plans and phones to the almost 1,000 Walmart stores. And in 2015, Cricket added Target stores and began selling through Amazon.

The initial lineup of Cricket phones available through Best Buy consists of the new ZTE Fanfare and HTC Desire 625, and additional models will be rolled out during the next two months. Details on Arron’s lineup were unavailable.

Best Buy also offers Cricket’s Universal SIM Card Kit for activating a user’s existing AT&T-compatible phones, as will Aaron’s.

Through both retailers, consumers can choose Cricket plans that start at $35/month, taxes and fees included, after signing up for an AutoPay option that offers a $5/month credit. Cricket also offers unlimited texts and calls to and from the U.S., Mexico and Canada on its $50/month and $60/month plans.