T-Mobile is starting a major retail push this year with plans to open 400 of its own branded stores and another 1,000 outlets to sell its MetroPCS prepaid service.
Last year, opening new stores wasn’t a priority. But customers have shown a strong desire to visit a brick and mortar mobile outlets when they need to sign up for service, upgrade their phones, or just get some tech advice, T-Mobile’s chief operating officer Mike Sievert explained in an interview.
“We always just follow what the customer really wants,” says Sievert, adding customers have been “very clear” that “they prefer to do business at a fully branded store.”
Approximately 230 million people live within 10 miles of T-Mobile’s (tmus) roughly 3,600 current stores, leaving “a lot of room for growth,” posits Sievert, who expects the next 400 units will get that reach up to 260 million to 270 million people.
The wireless industry overall has been a savior for mall owners and commercial landlords around the country as carriers are adding stores at a time when many other retail chains and banks are shrinking their physical footprint. AT&T (t) and Verizon Communications (vz) have been rolling out larger flagship stores stocked with an array of tech gadgets and connected devices. Even Apple fans are shifting their preference away from the iPhone maker’s own stores to carriers’ outlets, according to a survey by released this month by Consumer Intelligence research Partners.
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T-Mobile announced the expansion on its first quarter earnings call on Tuesday. The third-largest U.S. mobile carrier said its revenue increased 11% to $8.6 billion as it added 2.2 million net new customers in the quarter. That marked the 12th consecutive quarter adding at least one million new customers.
T-Mobile’s planned 1,000 additions for MetroPCS are comparable on a percentage basis to the 400 branded store openings as the prepaid service T-Mobile bought in 2013 already has 7,500 dedicated outlets.
T-Mobile is the only major mobile carrier having success in adding large numbers of customers to both traditional monthly plans, so called postpaid service, as well as prepaid, which tends to cater to less wealthy demographic groups.
In the first quarter, for example, T-Mobile added a net one million postpaid customers, including 877,000 on phones and 164,000 on other mobile broadband devices, and a net 807,000 prepaid customers. T-Mobile also sells service wholesale, including to Google’s Project Fi program, adding another 373,000 customers in the quarter.