The iPhone is a big seller at Apple’s retail stores, but not necessarily Sprint’s version of the device. A new study by Consumer Intelligence Research Partners (CIRP) has found that Sprint iPhones sell far better at Best Buy and warehouse clubs and mass-market retailers (Costco, Walmart, etc.) than they do at Apple Stores.
CIRP surveyed iPhone buyers over two three-month periods ending March and May 2012, and found that Sprint’s share of iPhone sales through Apple was just 9 percent. Meanwhile the carrier’s shares of iPhone sales through Best Buy and other mass-market retailers were 19 percent and 18 percent, respectively. In other words, Sprint is selling double the number of iPhones through big-box retailers than it is through Apple.
Which is odd, isn’t it? Particularly since iPhone sales through rival carriers AT&T and Verizon are fairly consistent across those same outlets, though Verizon does see a drop at Best Buy, Costco and the like. Why is it that Sprint seems to fare worse than its competitors when Apple sells its iPhones?
It’s a perplexing question. Perhaps it has something to do with the retailers’ sales staff and their familiarity with these three networks. Best Buy and Costco have been selling phones on Sprint’s network for years. Apple only just started.
A more likely explanation? Legacy availability. AT&T and Verizon both have a lot of iPhone using customers and very high retention rates; CIRP figures those two carriers retained 94 percent of their existing customers that bought an iPhone. In other words, if you bought an iPhone from Apple on AT&T or Verizon and you return to the store to buy another, you’re not likely to switch carriers. And since Apple Stores have sold only AT&T and Verizon iPhones for so long, Sprint’s seeing a bit less traction there than it is at retailers like Best Buy, where it has had a longer term presence.
“Sprint is really suffering from being third to the dance,” CIRP partner Michael Levin told AllThingsD. “At the Apple Store and other carrier-agnostic retailers there is still very little switching, and Sprint just doesn’t have enough existing customers walking through the door. … AT&T’s installed base of iPhone customers and Verizon’s huge, satisfied customer base are proving a barrier to Sprint growing its market share.”