O2 – 95 + 3 = 150

3 have bought 95 stores from O2 in a bid to double its retail presence by Christmas and boost its market share by pulling in high street shoppers.

In an agreement between O2 and 3, the Hutchison Whampoa owned network will buy 73 Link stores and 22 O2 sites, continuing their strategy to build a nationwide retail presence.

There are currently over thirty 3Stores in the UK and a further 133 concessions in Superdrug and Selfridges. The acquisition will increase the number of stand alone stores to over 150.

3 expects over 90 of the new stores to be selling its products and services by the end of 2006. Stores will be re-branded, refurbished and converted to 3Stores.

All permanent staff at the 73 Link stores are safe in their jobs, as they will transfer over to 3 as part of the deal. O2 employees will continue to work for O2. As a result a further 200 jobs will be created in the 3 retail network.

Marc Allera, Sales Director of 3 UK, said "We’re delighted to acquire this retail portfolio and we’re confident we can turn these sites into 3Stores in a matter of weeks. This strengthens our direct sales channel, giving the 3 brand a major presence on high streets across the country and helping us to further develop our relationship with our existing customers. Also most of these stores will be open in time for the busy Christmas period."

Given recent changes in relationships between independents and networks, dealers might be forgiven for thinking 3 is following the trend and moving to direct sales, but Allera insisted this is not the case.

"This agreement ensures we have a balanced mix of distribution. With specialist independents and the major third-party retailers continuing to play a major role in how we attract customers." Allera said.

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