Fone Zone opens 100th mobility outlet

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Queensland mobility retailer and corporate reseller Fone Zone opens its hundredth store on Thursday, at Westfield Mall in northern Sydney suburb Hornsby.

Queensland mobility retailer and corporate reseller Fone Zone opens its hundredth store on Thursday, at Westfield Mall in northern Sydney suburb Hornsby.

The company, which opened its first shop on the Gold Coast in 1994, now claims to be the largest mobile phone retailer in Australia owned by a single entity.

David McMahon, who co-owns Fone Zone with wife Maxine Horne, said the Telstra dealer, which has tripled turnover from $55 million in 2000-01 to an expected $160 million this financial year, plans 150 outlets by the end of 2004-05.

'We are concentrating more at the moment on Sydney and regional NSW. Over the last two months, we have opened stores in places such as Goulburn, Wagga Wagga and Orange,' he said.

McMahon said Fone Zone's ninety-ninth store opened today, Tuesday 2 March, in Perth. Both new outlets were 'brand-new', and expected to bring the company's 520-strong team of staff to 580, he said.

The company has also been growing by acquisition. 2003 was Fone Zone's fastest growing year so far, with MPC Communications, Let's Talk, In Touch Communications and Call Direct all swallowed by the retailer.

Fone Zone also won $8 million in venture capital and expanded into every Australian state and territory last year. Store numbers have almost doubled since January 2003.

McMahon said convergence of mobile phones, PDAs and gaming was driving Fone Zone's segment of the market.

'Mobile phones in the last 12 months have become more than a simple telephone. We are starting to see PDAs integrated much more with mobiles, and players such as Microsoft coming in with operating systems,' he said.

'From a Fone Zone point of view, in February we launched our own entertainment and mobile [section], Fun Zone. In there we've got 400 sort of downloadable Java games for on your mobile.'

Mobile phone games were not seen as rivalling games by PlayStation or Xbox but supplementing those offerings, providing options for people to use while waiting for buses or meetings, McMahon suggested.

Corporate sales were also driving growth and would continue to do so, he said.

'Over the last two years, it has really expanded. We started to see more businesspeople coming into our stores, because they can't get the service they were looking for [from traditional outlets]. Over about 24 months, that has grown from a few percent to 12 to 15 percent,' McMahon said.

Products that were 'properly' synchronised with laptops and PDAs were expected to be popular in corporate circles, he added.

However, the company had no plans to sign with a 3G provider or stock 3G handsets, he said.

'I think what [Hutchison] has done is a catalyst to drive the industry to a whole new level,' McMahon said. 'But we're an 100 percent premium Telstra dealer. GPRS and Telstra themselves have services which are very quick on their data network and there's not much difference between Telstra's offering and 3 service.'

Staff at all 100 Fone Zone stores across Australia will pop the cork on a bottle of champagne as McMahon and Horne cut the ribbon to officially open the Hornsby store.

The company is celebrating with a 14-day 'Sell-A-Bration' sale, that will be the biggest sale in the company's history.

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