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Samsung eyes Apple Stores, teams on its own in Europe

Samsung Electronics is joining forces with retailer Carphone Warehouse to create 60 dedicated Samsung stores in Europe, hoping that will help keep the growing competition in the Android smartphone market at bay.

The stores will be opened in the next three months across the U.K., Ireland, Germany, Spain, Portugal, Sweden, and the Netherlands. The 60 stores will be a mixture of new locations and of existing Carphone Warehouse locations that will be converted to sell Samsung products, according to a Carphone Warehouse spokeswoman. About a third of the stores will be in the U.K. making it the largest market, she said.

The stores will sell smartphones, tablets, laptops and wearables, according to Samsung. With the European economy improving, the company sees an opportunity to increase sales with this push. Also, while consumers knows its smartphones and tablets, the dedicated stores will draw more attention to its laptops and the Galaxy Gear smartwatch, Samsung said.

Mixed success in brick and mortar

Dedicated stores have been a mixed bag for manufacturers of consumer electronics. While Apple’s chain of stores has flourished, other manufacturers, such as Nokia, are closing down their retail operations. Microsoft has strived to distinguish its stores.

Samsung’s retail push follows the opening of three stand-alone stores in Spain last year, also operated by Carphone Warehouse, so Samsung is convinced it has found a winning concept.

“The deal will benefit both sides. Samsung is desperate to replicate Apple’s famous retail store experience, while Carphone Warehouse badly needs to develop fresh revenue streams in the saturated European mobile market. I expect Samsung to use its flagship stores as showrooms to generate a feel-good factor around the brand,” said Neil Mawston , executive director at Strategy Analytics.

As all markets mature and become more crowded, retail becomes more critical. However, whether the stores can remain profitable long-term, as more sales of consumer electronics shift online, remains to be seen, according to Mawston.

Last year Samsung extended its worldwide lead over Apple to 160.5 million smartphones, but the company isn’t impervious to increased competition in the smartphone sector. Its market share dropped from 29.1 percent to 28.8 percent year on year during fourth quarter, while Huawei Technologies, Lenovo and LG Electronics all increased their share, according to IDC.

“Samsung is a bit like Nokia a few years ago; very dominant, biggest product portfolio and biggest distribution, but everyone is gunning for them,” Mawston said.

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